England Women put behind them the heartache of losing the 2010 Rugby World Cup final tonight (Saturday) by defeating the world champions, New Zealand, 10-0 at Twickenham Stadium.
Gary Street’s side, who last took on the Black Ferns 14 months ago and lost 13-10, controlled a superb game at the home of England Rugby to take the hard earned but well deserved victory. A 30th minute try from Margaret Alphonsi, which followed some superb work by Woman of the Match Emily Scarratt, as well as a conversion and drop goal from skipper Katy McLean sealed the victory for the home side.
England Head Coach Street said: “14 months of sheer hard work and preparation went into today’s performance. We were not satisfied with our performance in the world cup final and we had a point to prove as much to ourselves as anyone. We played some good expansive rugby and our big players stood up and put the work in all over the park. It feels great that all our hard work has paid off today.
“All that said this is the start of a three test series against the world champions. Although I think we dominated most of the game and a lot of the areas, we have to keep this performance and momentum going. New Zealand are the world champions after all and there is no doubt that they will want to bounce back bigger and stronger on Tuesday at Esher, but we will be ready for that.”
Unlike the World Cup final, England began the game with great control and attacked the Black Ferns hard. Nine minutes in and the visitors had not had a sniff in England’s half. The Black Ferns battled hard to regain control and they started to put pressure on England’s scrum but in the end they were penalised and England were awarded a penalty on 15 minutes. Fly-half McLean couldn’t make the penalty with her kick going just below the crossbar, but that didn’t put the home side off their stride.
England continued to keep New Zealand in their half and came close to scoring after 20 minutes. Good line-out ball from Lichfield hooker Vicky Fleetwood saw lock Rowena Burnfield take it in. Alphonsi and Becky Essex both picked and drove, but in the end they couldn’t ground the ball with the Black Ferns defence holding firm.
After 30 minutes though England secured a crucial try. Again, another well-worked line-out, with Tamara Taylor this time securing good, clean ball, saw the ball recycled out through La Toya Mason, McLean and then Scarratt who made a superb break with a great line cut through New Zealand’s defence. The Lichfield centre couldn’t make the try-line but Alphonsi was in support and blasted her way through to score. With McLean converting England took a 7-0 lead at half-time.
New Zealand had their chances after the break when McLean’s kick was scooped up by wing Renee Wickliffe. Wickcliffe found space and ran through England’s defence but lost control of the ball close to the try-line when Scarratt came in and covered well in defence.
England rang the changes as the 50 minute mark neared with Rachael Burford, Amy Tuner, Natasha Hunt and Laura Keates all coming on. And it unsettled New Zealand who nearly conceded a second try when Alphonsi got on the end of a clever chip from McLean, but again she was unable to secure the ball and ground it.
McLean though continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over and stroked over a drop goal on 58 minutes to give the home side a 10-0 lead. England’s wingers, Michaela Staniford and Katherine Merchant, meanwhile continued to heap the pressure on New Zealand and Merchant came close to scoring after a 40 metre break, only for a tap tackle ten metres out to take her down.
England and New Zealand are back in action on Tuesday for the second of the three match series at Esher RFC, kick off 7pm, before the final match on Saturday December 3rd, kick-off 2pm, at Esher RFC also.
15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol), 11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor(Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 6 Rebecca Essex(Richmond), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) (VC), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield). Replacements: 16 Amy Turner (Richmond), 17 Laura Keates (Worcester), 18 Marlie Packer (Bristol), 19 Alexandra Matthews(Richmond), 20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 21 Rachael Burford (Richmond), 22 Kay Wilson (Richmond)
Drop goals: McLean
Substitutions: Wilson for Waterman (47), Burford for Oliver (51), Turner for Fleetwood (55), Hunt for Mason (55), Keates for Clark (55), Packer for Essex (58), Matthews for Alphonsi (78)
15 Victoria Grant (C), 14 Shakira Baker, 13 Kelly Brazier, 12 Amiria Rule, 11 Renee Wickliffe, 10 Rebecca Mahoney, 9 Emma Jensen, 1 Kathleen Wilton, 2 Fiao’o Faamausili, 3 Mel Bosman, 4 Vita Robinson, 5 Eloise Blackwell, 6 Amanda Murphy, 7 Justine Lavea, 8 Casey Robertson. Replecaments: 16 Karina Penetito, 17 Doris Taufateau, 18 Rawina Everitt, 19 Aroha Savage, 20 Kendra Cocksedge, 21 Teresa Te Tamaki, 22 Hazel Tubic