What you may have missed from the opening day in New Zealand


Women’s Rugby World Cup: Day One Highlights

With this year’s Rugby World Cup taking place at rather unsocial hours for those in the UK, Rugby World will bring you a rundown of all the key happenings from each match day.

The tournament kicked off in front of more than 34,000 people at Eden Park – a record – with wins for France, England and New Zealand. Plus, there were two performances from Rita Ora. All in all, it was a cracking opening day.

Women’s Rugby World Cup: Day One Highlights

Snap, crackle and pop!

Stacey Fluhler was greeted with huge cheers when she departed the Eden Park pitch with 15 minutes remaining of the Black Ferns’ match against Australia. She made a few significant interventions during the game but no doubt fresh in the crowd’s mind was the offload she delivered to set up Portia Woodman’s hat-trick try.

Fluhler was caught metres from the line but popped the ball up and behind for Woodman to collect and cross in the corner. Delectable seems a good word for it, and it helped the Black Ferns to a 41-17 victory over the Wallaroos.

It was also brilliant to see so many of the Black Ferns still scattered around the sidelines of the Eden Park pitch talking to fans an hour after the final whistle of their match.

For this tournament to be successful, it needs supporters in New Zealand to be packing out the venues and that effort from the players to engage with those on the sidelines will surely help.

Building the atmosphere

We’re used to the All Blacks’ haka creating special moments before games, particularly if the opposition has put together a response, and the same was true here with the Black Ferns’ pre-match ritual.

The crowd was silent as Ruahei Demant led the haka, the players’ emotion and passion evident to those watching. Then the Wallaroos, who faced it in a reverse arrow formation, started walking forward and lined up on the halfway line. It really cranked up the atmosphere for the finale of the opening day.

The return of Dow

Claudia MacDonald dominated the scoresheet in England’s 84-19 win over Fiji, scoring four tries in all, but arguably the most pleasing sight for Red Roses fans was Abby Dow getting over the line.

The winger has spent the past six months in rehab after breaking her leg against Wales during the Six Nations and proved her fitness with a fine try around the hour mark, showing her pace and power to get over in the corner.

Women’s Rugby World Cup: Day One Highlights

Abby Dow breaks to score on her comeback from injury (AFP/Getty Images)

Fijian flair

Fiji were ultimately undone by a clinical England but how refreshing to see them, in their first-ever World Cup match, rattle the world’s No 1 team in that opening 40 minutes. Their willingness to attack from anywhere tested the Red Roses and they were able to score two first-half tries.

Even after England had overpowered them in the second period by scoring ten tries, they had the final say when Lavena Cavuru crossed with the last play.

Lavena Cavuru scores a late try for Fiji against England (Getty Images)

Fill your boots

Poppy Cleall donned some special footwear for England’s first match against Fiji. She had the name of every player from England’s 1994 and 2014 World Cup-winning squads inscribed on her white boots.

South African smiles

France may have won the opening match of the tournament 40-5, but the biggest celebrations arguably came when South Africa scored their only try.

Nomawethu Mabenge crossed in the corner in the 50th minute and the smiles on players’ faces said it all. This was their first World Cup appearance since 2014 and they caused the French problems with their physicality and work-rate.

Women’s Rugby World Cup: Day One Highlights

South Africa celebrate Nomawethu Mabenge’s try (AFP/Getty Images)

Ruby tunes

BBC Radio 5 Live is producing weekly podcasts every Thursday during the World Cup and the first episode doesn’t disappoint, with Black Ferns wing Ruby Tui giving an insight into both the hosts and her story. So if you want to continue the World Cup buzz for the rest of the day, give it a listen on BBC Sounds.

Head to our Rugby World Cup hub page for all the latest from New Zealand.

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