England Women secured back to back victories over New Zealand for the first time ever tonight (Tuesday) following a dominant 21-7 victory at Championship club Esher RFC.
Following Saturday’s 10-0 win over New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium, England followed up win with a three try effort despite making 11 changes to the starting line-up.
Wing Georgina Roberts, skipper Katy McLean and hooker Vicky Fleetwood touched down for tries, with McLean adding two penalties to hand last year’s Rugby World Cup finalists a resounding win. England next take on the Black Ferns in the final game of the series on Saturday at Esher RFC, kick off 2pm.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “I am so proud of the performances the players have put in, but also really glad that I had faith in the whole squad to make 11 changes for tonight’s game as it proved justified.
“It wasn’t just about getting the points tonight that was important but it was the attitude and the strength the players showed. They didn’t panic when I made the changes to the starting line-up, instead they showed real character.
“The backrow was superb tonight. With three young players starting, they were outstanding. Alexandra Matthews in particular was a revelation playing as an 18 year old against the world champions.
“I have promised the players I will pick the best available side for Saturday’s game but selection will not be easy given the performances of all 26 players in the squad but I am already looking forward to the final game on Saturday already.”
Despite only playing an international test match three days ago England got off to a blistering start. Some great pressure from the kick off saw England drive forward and put the Black Ferns under immediate pressure. Lock Tamara Taylor made a good break when an early penalty came their way fly-half McLean stroked it over with ease, taking a 3-0 lead after just two minutes.
The momentum continued for England with wing Georgina Roberts scoring the first try of the evening on just nine minutes. Again more pressure from England saw New Zealand under the cosh and when centre Kim Oliver picked up a loose ball and executed a superb long range pass it set-up Rachael Burford, who had the legs to power through the Black Ferns defence and set-up Roberts on the right wing. McLean couldn’t make the conversion but England still led 8-0.
The world champions hit back though and were certainly showing more fizz and creativity than in the first encounter of this series. A New Zealand scrum saw the ball go loose but scrum half Kendra Cocksedge recovered well to pick up and make a break. Flanker Justine Lavea then finished off the move with a powerful blast over England’s try line. Kelly Brazier added the conversion to reduce the deficit to 8-7.
The remainder of the half went England’s way with a series of scrums in New Zealand’s 22. McLean came close to scoring with a nice chip ahead but couldn’t ground it, while No.8 Matthews also pounded New Zealand’s defence on a number of occasions. Another fine attacking move involving Becky Essex and the impressive Natasha Hunt saw England close before McLean added two more points with a penalty after New Zealand's Vita Robinson was sent to the sin bin.
After the break the tempo of the game remained relentless. New Zealand put England under pressure early on but the home side made the turnover, leaving the Black Ferns chasing their rivals after Michaela Staniford made a good break. Hannah Gallagher made some more yards for England before the ball went out-wide to Kat Merchant and then Kay Wilson who came close but was unable to score.
Just seven minutes into the half Mclean added England’s second try. Again following a series of scrums in New Zealand’s 22, England made the most of their chances and scrum half Hunt recycled the ball out to McLean who found a gap to break through and score. She couldn’t make the conversion, and even with England losing Kim Oliver to the sin bin, England added to the visitors' misery with a third try.
This time it was the turn of replacement hooker Vicky Fleetwood to take the honours. An England line-out saw Fleetwood throw in well for her teammate to bounce the ball straight back at her allowing Fleetwood to blast through New Zealand’s defence and score after 68 minutes. The score proved decisive with New Zealand, even though they fought to the very end, unable to claw their way back into the game.
15 Kay Wilson (Richmond), 14 Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 13 Rachael Burford (Richmond), 12 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol), 11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C), 9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 1 Claire Purdy (Wasps) (VC), 2 Amy Turner (Richmond), 3 Laura Keates (Worcester), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 6 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), 7 Marlie Packer (Bristol), 8 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond). Replacements: 16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 20 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 21 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 22 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
Tries: Roberts, McLean, Fleetwood
Penalties: McLean (2)
Substitutions: Merchant for Roberts, Fleetwood for Turner (52), Burnfield for Essex (57), Alphonsi for Gallagher (60), Keates for Hemming (64), Scarratt for Staniford (69).
15 Kelly Brazier, 14 Katarina Whata, 13 Shakira Baker, 12 Amiria Rule, 11 Renee Wickliffe, 10 Rebecca Mahoney, 9 Kendra Cocksedge, 1 Kathleen Wilton, 2 Karina Penetito, 3 Mel Bosman, 4 Vita Robinson, 5 Kalani Matapo, 6 Lydia Crossman, 7 Justine Lavea, 8 Casey Robertson (C). Replacements: 16 Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox, 17 Muteremoana Aiatu, 18 Eloise Blackwell, 19 Aroha Savage, 20 Emma Jensen, 21 Teresa Te Tamaki, 22 Hazel Tubic
Referee: Philip Davies
Assistant Referees: Paul Kimber & Ken Morgan
England Autumn International Series
November 26 England 10 New Zealand 0, Twickenham Stadium
November 29 England 21 New Zealand 7 Esher RFC
December 3 England v New Zealand, Esher RFC, 2pm, live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive
photos Janos Schmidt