Black Ferns deliver second-half blitz

Former Otago Spirit players Kelly Brazier (left) and Carla Hohepa celebrate with the trophy after the Black Ferns beat England 42-34 in the Women's Rugby World Cup Final in Belfast in Northern Ireland yesterday. Photo:Getty Images
Former Otago Spirit players Kelly Brazier (left) and Carla Hohepa celebrate with the trophy after the Black Ferns beat England 42-34 in the Women's Rugby World Cup Final in Belfast in Northern Ireland yesterday. Photo:Getty Images

The Black Ferns have won back the women’s rugby World Cup with a sublime second half to overwhelm defending champion England 41-32 in Dublin.

The Kiwis were comprehensively outplayed in the first spell but ran in five second-half tries — headlined by prop Toka Natua’s hat trick — for an outstanding win.

New Zealand captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili said her team had been determined to make up for the disappointment of the last World Cup in 2014, when the Black Ferns failed to make it to the knockout stages.

‘‘This has been a long time waiting for us, the girls have worked extremely hard the last three years,’’ she said.

‘‘I couldn’t be any prouder. What a display of women’s rugby you saw out there today. Couldn’t ask for a better final. England really gave it to us — played some amazing rugby — but our girls left it all on the field.’’

The Black Ferns had orchestrated the perfect start, first five-eighth Victoria Subritzy-Nafatali’s wide kick falling perfectly for fullback Selica Winiata to dot down.

England reduced the margin with a penalty soon after, then were clinical in making the Black Ferns pay when flanker Sarah Goss’ tackle was deemed dangerous and she was sinbinned.

The Kiwis were able to hold out England initially, but were always going to struggle at scrum time with a player down and conceded a penalty try after 24 minutes.

Seven minutes later, winger Lydia Thompson extended England’s lead, crossing out wide after quick hands from the breakdown left the New Zealand defence scrambling.

The Kiwis continued to concede too many penalties, and at 17-5 down looked down and out.

But two minutes from halftime, Natua reached out a big hand from the depths of a strong Black Ferns drive to the line for her first try of the night.

After struggling for possession and territory for the first 40 minutes, the New Zealanders came out firing in the second spell.

Their aimless kicking game disappeared, and the tries began coming.

Natua kick-started proceedings with her second try from close range, then lock Charmaine Smith added another after 52 minutes, only for England to hit back through Thompson two minutes later.

But the Kiwis found another gear, controlling possession with a dominant forward effort epitomised by Natua’s hat-trick try as the hour mark approached.

First-five Kendra Cocksedge darted across for New Zealand’s sixth, then Subritzy-Nafatali unleashed another pinpoint cross kick for Winiata’s second try of the match.

There was still a twist at the end, the Ferns finishing with 14 players after Lesley Ketu’s 77th minute yellow card.

England capitalised, driving Izzy Noel-Smith over to reduce the Kiwi lead to nine with two minutes remaining, but it was too little and far too late. 

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