Sport Editor Joe Liddicot reports on England’s unfortunate loss to hosts New Zealand in the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final
The Women’s Rugby Union World Cup reached its climax this weekend, with England vying to lift the trophy on Saturday. Holders and hosts New Zealand stood in their way, in a highly anticipated rematch of the 2017 final. The Black Ferns came away 34-31 victors over England, with the match offering twists and turns at every step.
This was not the Red Roses’ first rodeo in a World Cup final, having won the tournament twice before, there is a clear winning pedigree within women’s rugby in England. Their last victory in 2014 saw them triumph over Canada to lift the trophy. Their victory over the Canadians last week also earned them their spot in this weekend’s final against the fabled Black Ferns.
To make matters more agonising, the English side were ahead for the vast majority of the game. They made a perfect start, leading 12-0 after tries from Ellie Kildunne, Amy Cokayne and Marlie Packer. Cockayne went on to score two more tries during the match in a dominant performance.
In the seventeenth minute, however, Lydia Thompson was sent off for a head to head collision with New Zealand’s Portia Woodman. Woodman was unable to continue playing. Georgia Posonby put the Black Ferns on the board just a minute after the sending off,
reigniting their hopes of victory in front of a home crowd.
New Zealand slowly crept back into the match, with England just keeping their noses in front for the majority of the game. A hat-trick of tries from Emily Scarratt kept England in the game. She was the top points scorer from the 2014 World Cup, and showed her class on the biggest stage in this match. In the 72nd minute, however, Ayesha Leti-I’iga scored a try that put New Zealand ahead. All hope was not lost, as the English women had one last chance to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. A five metre gap was all the maul had to close following a successful lineout. Unfortunately for the English fans, the exhaustion from a back-and-forth game with only 14
players seemed to catch up with the Red Roses as they failed to score.
Analysing the tournament holistically, it has been an unequivocal success. Thrilling matches throughout, as well as a fantastic standard of rugby, will inevitably be enough to inspire thousands of young girls to take up the sport. An attendance in excess of 40,000 is expected on Saturday – a figure that would set a record for a women’s rugby match. Selling out Eden Park represents a huge stride for the women’s game.
The decision to delay the tournament by a year – it’s still officially referred to as the 2021 World Cup – has proved an excellent decision. Allowing fans to attend matches is imperative for the growth of the sport. And while most of the Eden Park crowd were cheering for New Zealand, thousands back home were willing England to victory. Despite the result, the Red Roses have done the
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