The Black Ferns are World Champions once more, overwhelming cup defenders England with a stunning second-half fightback to run out 41 – 32 victors in Dublin.
Five tries in 30 minutes either side of half-time, including a hattrick to prop Toka Natua, proved the difference as the Kiwi women overcame a 12-point deficit and a yellow card to break English hearts for the fourth time in a Cup final.
Leading into the final the Black Ferns had scored 42 tries in four games – 13 more than pre-tournament favourites England – and their attacking prowess proved to be the difference.
If a fifth World Cup title wasn’t enough to get out of bed for the Black Ferns also had the added motivation of avenging a home loss to the women in white in June, who could look back on that victory as a blueprint on how to strangle New Zealand into submission.
The opening clashes were true to form as England earned prime attacking territory with their forwards relishing contact before winning a lineout against the throw. But they couldn’t capitalise as a pass failed to find unmarked wing Kay Wilson, and they were made to pay immediately.
The cross-field kick had been a weapon all tournament for first-five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and she landed yet another one as it bounced for fullback Selica Winiata to put the afterburners on and skin her opposite to score in the corner.
England didn’t panic and looked to force the Black Ferns into an arm-wrestle, claiming 70% of the pill in the first quarter and forcing a string of penalties, one of which was converted to open their account and close the gap to two.
Discipline had been a key talking point for coach Glenn Moore but once again he was forced to watch a yellow card emerge from the referee’s pocket, with openside Sarah Goss binned this time for lifting in the tackle. England wasted no time punishing her absence as a lineout drive was firstly held-up over the line before the ensuing scrum saw them blitz the weakened Black Ferns pack and chalk up a penalty try.
With momentum on their side even Goss’ return couldn’t stop England from striking again, this time through their backline with wing Lydia Thompson finishing in the corner. With the conversion nailed, the Black Ferns found themselves down by 12 but with the half closing out launched a final attack on the back of a penalty. The lineout drive was rebuffed though loosehead Toka Natua was not going to be denied as she got low on the pick and go to burrow over and close the gap to 10 – 17 at the break.
England would have known the Black Ferns are quick off kick-offs and once again they pounced to start a half as the forwards powered into contact and eventually cracked the white wall as Natua barrelled across for her second. Halfback Kendra Cocksedge slotted the conversion to level the scores and while England broke the parity with their second penalty their lead was short-lived as lock Charmaine Smith finished a full-throttled team attack by grounding the ball against the posts.
That try triggered a frenetic 10-minute spell as England immediately struck back when Thompson took a poor clearing kick and sprinted clear only for Natua to secure her hattrick when she monstered Natasha Hunt on the way to the posts. When Cocksedge squeezed over New Zealand lept ahead 36 – 25 with 17 minutes still left to play.
The Black Ferns were simply unrelenting as they closed the game out, refusing to give England even a sniff of a chance to launch a comeback. The pressure eventually told with Winiata putting the game out of reach off another cross-kick.
While another yellow card to sub Lesley Ketu allowed England a late consolation try, the Cup was never in doubt.
Finals day results
11th place play-off
Japan 44-5 Hong Kong
7th place play-off
Ireland 17-27 Wales
9th place play-off
Italy 20-15 Spain
5th place play-off
Australia 12-43 Canada
France 31-23 USA
Rugby World Cup Final
England 32-41 New Zealand