All you need to know about the Women’s World Cup final and the other last-round matches
New Zealand overwhelmed England with a five-try display in the second half to win a fifth Women’s World Cup and deny the defending champions back-to-back titles.
England has looked in control at half-time, leading 17-10 and dominating territory and possession. But the Black Ferns were a different beast in the second period, upping the intensity, putting more tempo into the game and rarely allowing England the ball.
Prop Toka Natua added two tries to the one she scored in the first half to end the game with a hat-trick while full-back Selica Winiata crossed for the first and seventh tries for the Black Ferns. Charmaine Smith and Kendra Cocksedge scored the other New Zealand tries, with the scrum-half kicking three conversions too.
For England it was the boot of Emily Scarratt, a penalty try and a touchdown for Lydia Thompson that gave them the half-time lead. Thompson added a second after the break but by the time Izzy Noel-Smith crossed late on, the cup was lost.
The trophy goes back to New Zealand again after the Black Ferns failed to even reach the semi-finals in 2014.
It is a bitter blow for England, particularly given the funding and coverage the XVs programme has experienced this year, but it was a fantastic game of rugby. Fast and furious, it was ideal Saturday night entertainment! As former England hooker Brian Moore tweeeted: “Your rarely get great World Cup finals but that was one.”
Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Faamausili, who is retiring from international rugby, said: “I’m extremely happy, on top of the world. The girls really delivered and I couldn’t ask for a better way to finish my rugby career in the black jersey than to take that cup home.
“I was in tears because those girls have worked so bloody hard. It’s been three years of commitment, training early hours of the morning, going to work and then training after work. That’s commitment right there. And to see them get their first World Cup gold medal, I’m extremely proud.”
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England coach Simon Middleton paid tribute to New Zealand’s performance as well as his own team’s, saying: “Huge congratulations to New Zealand. They’ve had a great tournament and full credit to them. In terms of our team, I couldn’t be prouder. The girls gave everything but we just couldn’t get enough possession in the second half to turn the game how we wanted.”
Emily Scarratt concurred on that, adding: “They kept the ball better than we did in the second half and it’s hard to play rugby without the ball. We came to this tournament with a very specific goal, to come away with the trophy, and to reach this point is tough. I’m absolutely gutted.”
Captain Sarah Hunter also hailed the team spirit of her side and said: “This is a very special squad. We win together and we lose together.”
The final may have provided a fitting climax to this World Cup, but there were entertaining games played across Belfast as the teams played off for placings at both Kingspan Stadium and Queen’s University.
France, who fell short of making a World Cup final yet again, finished third by beating the USA 31-23. It was another hugely entertaining game, with end-to-end rugby as the two teams showed power and pace, and scored seven tries between them.
The French were worthy winners but the improvement shown by the States at this tournament – fourth is their best finish since being runners-up in 1998 – bodes well for the future.
Expect Wales to make strides going forward too. They beat hosts Ireland 27-17 to finish seventh and guarantee their place at the next World Cup – and did so with four teenagers on the bench.
The Irish will now have to go through the qualification process for WRWC 2021 – whatever that may be as it’s yet to be decided. Ireland failed to fulfil expectations at their own World Cup and it’s little surprise that coach Tom Tierney stood down after this defeat.
Over at Queen’s, Canada finished fifth by overcoming Australia 43-12 in their play-off but, like Ireland, they will have been disappointed by their overall campaign as they failed to be as competitive in the pool stages as they were in the June Tests.
Italy needed extra-time to beat Spain in the ninth-place play-off but eventually won 20-15 while Japan eased past Hong Kong 44-5 to finish 11th.
England v New Zealand details
England: E Scarratt; L Thompson (A Wilson Hardy 71), M Jones, R Burford (A Reed 55), K Wilson; K Mclean, N Hunt (LT Mason 59); V Cornborough (R Clark 57), A Cokayne (V Fleetwood 57), S Bern (J Lucas 57), A Scott, T Taylor (H Millar-Mills 64), A Matthews, M Packer (I Noel-Smith 60), S Hunter (captain).
Tries: Penalty, Thompson 2, Noel-Smith. Cons: Scarratt 3. Pens: Scarratt 2.
New Zealand: S Winiata; P Woodman, S Waaka (T Fitzpatrick T Fitzpatrick 64), K Brazier, R Wickliffe (C Hohepa 60); V Subritzky-Nafatali, K Cocksedge (K Sue 7); T Natua (S Talawadua 77), F Faamausili (captain, TK Ngata-Aerengamate 79), A Itunu (A Nelson 67), E Blackwell (B Wood 28-33), C Smith (B Wood 74), C McMenamin (L Ketu 71), S Goss, A Savage.
Tries: Winiata 2, Natua 3, Smith, Cocksedge. Cons: Cocksedge 3.
Sin-bin: Goss (20min).
The final round matches
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
3rd-place play-off: France 31-23 USA
Final: England 32-41 New Zealand