|New Zealand: (19) 34|
|Tries: Ponsonby, Leti-I’iga 2, Rule, Fluhler, Murray; Disadvantages: Holmes 2|
|England: (26) 31|
|Tries: Kildunne, Cokayne 3, M Packer; Disadvantages: Scarat 3|
England’s winning streak ended in the most important game of all as New Zealand won the World Cup for a sixth time on a historic night for women’s rugby at Eden Park.
In one of the most dramatic World Cup finals of all time, the Red Roses were reduced to 14 men when Lydia Thompson was sent off in the 18th minute and led for most of the match.
England had lost four previous finals to New Zealand and their hearts were broken once again as Ayesha Leti-I’iga’s try restored a three-point lead for the hosts with nine minutes remaining.
The Red Roses had the chance to win with a last line-out – their most potent weapon throughout the tournament – with the clock running red, but missed their throw to the delight of a wild world record 43,759 for a women’s match.
The delight on the faces of the New Zealand players and fans was in stark contrast to the England players, who stood tearfully with their heads in their hands as they contemplated the fact that their record 30-Test winning streak had ended when it mattered most .
England start stronger in entertaining final
As a packed Eden Park roared its support in the pre-match haka, with England sprawled across the pitch and looking back unmoved, it was clear that this was going to be a day women’s rugby fans will remember for next years.
Both sides saw the opportunity in front of them to send their sport into the stratosphere and delivered pure entertainment from start to finish.
England started with pace, giving New Zealand a taste of their own running game. They spread New Zealand out and Emily Scarratt found Ellie Kildunne for the first try.
There was enough action in the first 10 minutes for three finals and Amy Cokayne – who was called up to a Black Ferns camp as a teenager before choosing England – soon went over for the first of her three tries in the Red Roses trademark.
More drama came as a high tackle by Thompson on Portia Woodman’s World Cup try record led to a red card.
New Zealand relied on their unpredictable backline play in the earlier rounds but proved they could also black out as Georgia Ponsonby went over after a line-out soon after.
Another England try – this time to Marlie Packer – led to another Black Ferns response, with the Red Roses hanging on as Leti-I’iga raced into plenty of open space to score her first try.
Again England turned to their side, another try for Cockayne as England’s focus clashed with New Zealand’s chaos and Black Wings prop Amy Rule closed the half by peeling off the back of a maul to cross and make the score 26-19 to England. favor at halftime.
New Zealand are breaking English hearts again
England captain Sarah Hunter is still reeling from the 2017 final defeat to New Zealand, but after such a promising start it looked like she might finally get some revenge.
The Black Ferns felt differently. They suffered two record defeats to England in 2021, prompting their association to take action. The players turned professional earlier in 2022 – joining England who have had that status since 2019 – and two-time men’s World Cup winner coach Smith has come in to lead the team.
The effect of these changes was evident. Stacey Fluhler ended her 22 and sent Scarratt the wrong way. The center combined with Rene Holmes to cross before the full-back missed a conversion that would have equalised.
Suddenly England were struggling to contain the New Zealand backline and as the pressure mounted on their 22, Krystal Murray slotted past Lucy Packer to put the Black Ferns ahead for the first time.
Such is England’s belief in the drive, Zoe Harrison opted to kick in the corner instead of taking a penalty that would have leveled the game again.
The Red Roses were rewarded as Cockayne completed his hat-trick before New Zealand joined 14-man England as Kennedy Simon was booked for a dangerous tackle on Abby Dow, who left the field for a head injury assessment .
Then came the final and decisive blow of the Black Wings. Theresa Fitzpatrick drove forward for Flachler, who unloaded the ball beautifully as she fell to the floor to send Letty-Iiga to put New Zealand back in front.
Again England had a chance to equalize with a penalty and again kicked for a corner. This time, perhaps for the first time in this World Cup, their line let them down and New Zealand recovered the ball to become champions for the sixth time.
During the week, New Zealand star wing Ruby Tui reminded reporters that there was a time when nobody knew who the Black Ferns were.
The image of them lifting the trophy as a packed Eden Park chanted their name, before performing a haka for their fans, can certainly be listed as iconic.
England: Kildunne; Thompson, Scarratt, Aitchison, Dow; Harrison, L Packer; Cornborough, Cokayne, Bern, Aldcroft, Ward, Matthews, M Packer, Hunter (capt).
Replacements: Davies, Muir, Brown, O’Donnell, Cleall, Kabeya, MacDonald, Heard.
New Zealand: Holmes? Tui, Fluhler, Fitzpatrick, Woodman; Denmant (capt), Cocksedge; Love, Ponsonby, Rule, Roos, C Bremner, A Bremner, Hirini, McMenamin.
Replacements: Connor, Murray, Taumata, Ngan-Woo, Simon, Bayler, Tubic, Leti-I’iga.
Referee: Holly Davidson (Sco)