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Black Ferns take first blood against England Women
England Women’s winning streak against the world champions New Zealand came to an end today at Eden Park in Auckland when the Black Ferns secured a flattering 29-10 victory.
England, who went into the clash with series wins against the Black Ferns in 2011 and 2012, were for much of the match within just a couple of points of their rivals but in the end New Zealand pulled away and punished England for their mistakes with two late tries.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “Obviously we are disappointed because in the second-half we let it slip a bit; we started missing tackles whilst the Black Ferns took their opportunities. At the end of the first half we grew in confidence but then come the restart we lost our way.
“We’ll have a look at the footage, analyse it well and make sure we learn from it for our next game on Tuesday. We have certainly got to improve our accuracy with the ball at the breakdown and make sure we don’t give the referee so many chances to penalise us.W e scrummaged well and our line-out defence was good, and at times we opened up New Zealand well. We have got to do more of that next week.”
On the anniversary of the 1000th women’s rugby International Test match, the contest was fittingly a highly charged encounter with both sides evenly matched for most of the game. England had their chance early on to put some points on the board but fly half Katy Mclean couldn’t convert a fourth minute penalty. Mclean’s opposite number Kelly Brazier too had her chances but she converted a 14th minute penalty to hand the home side the lead.
New Zealand continued to pressurise England in the first quarter and England suffered with the penalty count going against them time after time. In the end the Black Ferns broke loose with new cap Portia Woodman, a star of last month’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow, scoring on the 21st minute. England’s defence had held firm for some time, and Kat Merchant pulled off a try-saving tackle to keep the Black Ferns at bay until England’s defence was stretched too thin and Woodman broke free, handing New Zealand an 8-0 lead.
The score, however, rallied England into action and the tourists this time were the side with the upper hand. England looked threatening as they dominated possession and Merchant came close to scoring.
Bristol’s Marlie Packer did the honours for England in the end, touching down for a crucial try on 30 minutes. The score came after Mclean missed a kick at goal and New Zealand knocked on, handing England a scrum just metres out from the Black Ferns’ try line. England’s pack fired up and Packer muscled her way over the line to score. Full back Emily Scarratt then added the conversion to reduce New Zealand’s lead to just 8-7 at half-time.
After the restart it was the Black Ferns who came out the stronger side as they started to dominate territory. Merchant and Scarratt kept their rivals at bay though with some impressive try-saving tackles and in the end New Zealand had to settle for just a Brazier penalty when England were penalised for being offside.
England kept the match within their sights with a Scarratt penalty moments later making it 11-10, and some more impressive tackling from Scarratt and Kay Wilson on the ever present Woodman and Renee Wickliffe kept the deficit to just one point as the clock ticked down.
But in the end England’s fresh legs couldn’t keep the momentum going as New Zealand pulled away with Brazier adding her third penalty. Another penalty came Brazier’s way minutes later when Natasha Hunt was penalised for a high tackle but at least the tackle kept New Zealand out from going over for a try.
Amiria Rule, however, had other ideas for the home side and on the 74th minute the experienced centre found space on the left wing to finish off a good break and score. Flanker Justine Lavea then rubbed salt into England’s wounds with a 76th-minute try. Brazier converted to make the final score 29-10.
England will now take on the Black Ferns on Tuesday where they will be looking to level the series at Waikato Stadium.