A look back at the talking points from England v Canada and New Zealand v France
Women’s Rugby World Cup Semi-finals Highlights
What a set of semi-finals! The last four teams involved in the Rugby World Cup certainly delivered at Eden Park on Saturday, with two incredible matches served up to the 22,043 fans in attendance.
Women’s Rugby World Cup Semi-finals Highlights
The ‘dream’ final
Ever since Rugby World arrived in New Zealand for this tournament talk has turned to the climax and what would be the ‘best’ final, the ‘dream’ match. Well, we’ve got what most people hoped for with the hosts, Black Ferns, taking on the world’s number one side, England, for the title of world champions next weekend at Eden Park.
The hope is that New Zealand’s premier stadium will be sold out for the final as New Zealand chase their sixth women’s title and the Red Roses aim to extend their winning run to 31 Tests by beating the Black Ferns for the first time at a World Cup and lift their third title. Nearly 8,000 tickets were snapped up straight after the final whistle.
Judging by the two semi-finals, it should be a cracking match – and both teams have been given food for thought over the next seven days.
Yes, we’re stealing the expression coined by the BBC’s Sara Orchard to describe England winger Abby Dow after the absolutely incredible try she scored against Canada.
It was a very un-English score as the Red Roses opted to attack from behind their own try-line, with Zoe Harrison passing to Claudia MacDonald, who broke upfield towards the ten.
MacDonald then found Dow, who arced around three Canada defenders, fending off Paige Farries as she approached the opposition try-line, and sprinted over.
You’ll want to watch this on a loop!
De Goede the Great
Sophie de Goede’s parents have T-shirts with the above slogan and she has proven throughout this World Cup what a stupendous player she is. There’s the lineout prowess, the athleticism at restarts, the power of her ball-carries… and that’s before we discuss her goalkicking. Given how rare it is for a forward to kick, that should probably be the starting point!
As well as her on-pitch feats, the 23-year-old has impressed off it. She has demonstrated a maturity beyond her years and is sure to be leading this Canada team for many years to come. She could be an integral figure for the next three World Cups.
When she was interviewed at the final whistle, it was clear she was holding back tears and it was hard not to feel for her. She may not be going to a World Cup final, but she has a whole new fan club now.
We must also stress what we said in this column last week about the need for investment in this Canada team. They are already a brilliant outfit so imagine how good they could be with more money behind them, when the players are able to concentrate on their rugby instead of also juggling work or studies.
If de Goede is this good now, she can become one of the game’s true greats over the next few years, especially if she is given the means to be a professional.
The Tui touch
New Zealand’s favourite Black Fern produced a remarkable finish to score the first points of the second half in the semi-final against France.
Renee Holmes put in a kick ahead and Ruby Tui set off in hot pursuit. France full-back Emilie Boulard looked set to win the race but the ball ricocheted off her legs and Tui timed her dive perfectly to ground the ball just before it rolled over the dead-ball line. An important score in a tight match.
The blue wall
France’s defence at this tournament has been phenomenal. They still haven’t conceded a point in the first quarter of all their matches at the World Cup and continually repelled the waves of black shirts heading in their direction.
They made twice as many tackles as the Black Ferns – not surprising given the hosts’ willingness to run the ball – and the physicality of those tackles was of the highest order.
Gabrielle Vernier, in particular, deserves to be singled out. The centre was one of the smallest players on the field but she continually drove opponents back and shut down the dangerous running threats in the New Zealand armoury.
While their defence was on target, Caroline Drouin’s kicking was not. Of course, she missed the last-minute penalty that would have put France into their first-ever women’s World Cup final but it was also a first-half error from her (a kick straight out from a goal-line dropout) that presented New Zealand with the platform for their first try.
Social media love
As the Black Ferns walked out for their semi-final, it was noticeable that some of the players were looking around the stadium, taking in all the people who had turned up to watch. It’s still something of a novelty for these players.
Yet it’s not only those in the stadium who were so impressed by these semi-finals – there has been plenty of love shown on social media, from players past and present, male and female, as well as pundits. Here is a pick of those posts…
Head to our Rugby World Cup hub page for all the latest from New Zealand.
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