New Zealand were crowned Women’s Rugby World Cup champions after they beat England 34-31 in an epic final at Eden Park on Saturday.
Scores from Georgia Ponsonby, Ayesha Leti-l’iga (2), Amy Rule, Stacey Fluhler and Krystal Murray were added to by two conversions from Renee Holmes.
Ellie Kildunne, Amy Cokayne (3) and Marlie Packer crossed for England, who had Lydia Thompson red carded early in the game for a head-on-head tackle.
England head coach Simon Middleton made five changes to the line-up that beat Canada in the semi-final.
Helena Rowland sustained a foot injury in that match and was replaced by Harlequins’ Kildunne at full-back, while her club-mate Vickii Cornborough was in at loosehead prop following a knee injury to Hannah Botterman.
Holly Aitchison started at inside centre in place of Tatyana Heard and Claudia MacDonald was on the bench with Abby Dow making the switch from right to left wing. Thompson returned on the right.
New Zealand made one change. Their hand was forced by injury to Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and she was replaced by Charmaine McMenamin.
From the start this was a frantic affair and Kildunne ran in the opening score before Cokayne crossed after a trademark England maul. Both were converted by Emily Scarratt, and the Red Roses were in control early on.
The first half was only 18 minutes old when Thompson was sent off for a high tackle on Portia Woodman and Leti-l’iga was brought on as a replacement for the injured Black Fern, as Ponsonby crossed and Holmes kicked the extras.
But if New Zealand thought the tide had turned, Packer gave them plenty more to think about when she went over after a lineout to stretch England’s lead before Leti-l’iga used the numerical advantage to touch down in acres of space. Holmes again hit her mark.
Cokayne claimed her second try of the game before Rule found the room to get over and cut the deficit to seven points as the teams went in at the break after a frantic, seven-try opening 40.
The second half was only 30 seconds old when the Black Ferns put on a stunning display of their running and passing game with Fluhler going over. Holmes just missed the kick to tie things up.
It was all New Zealand immediately after the break and they led for the first time when Murray got in from just a few metres out.
Holmes’ missed kick meant the advantage was just three and that was wiped out when Cokayne crossed for the third time after another driving maul from the lineout.
There was always a sense that the lead wouldn’t last and with 10 minutes to go Leti-l’iga scored a try worthy of winning a World Cup final.
Fitzpatrick’s kick split the English defence and Fluhler gathered before releasing the ball just short of the line for Leti-l’iga to apply the finishing touch.
France claim bronze at Rugby World Cup
Earlier, France claimed bronze at the Women’s Rugby World Cup with a 36-0 win over Canada that saw them keep their opponents entirely off the scoreboard.
The French were indisputably in command from the outset, keeping up on both attack and defence to deny the Canadians any redemption and winning easily.
The third place medallists finished with three tries in the opening stanza and two in the second period, interspersed with four conversions and a penalty kick.
Over the closing 10 minutes Canada seemed to collapse with demoralisation, with the victors dominating as Caroline Drouin ended with 11 points in the triumph.
For Canada, back-row Sophie De Goede made 18 tackles as their Rugby World Cup campaign ended on a disappointing note as they finished in fourth position.
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The article Women’s Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns edge England in epic final at sold-out Eden Park while France cruise past Canada to take bronze appeared first on Planetrugby.com.