Black Ferns better but England still too strong

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Off the back of a powerful pack, an irrepressible lineout drive, the outstanding No 12 Helena Rowland and some sharp goalkicking, England dominated in most facets to build on the 43-12 first Test victory and consolidate its No 1 world ranking.

But the Black Ferns tightened up their lineout, and were able to get more front foot ball to their outsides, where right wing Portia Woodman, in her first Test since Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, ran in for a brace, giving her 24 tries in 17 outings.

In general, the Black Ferns were not on the same page at the breakdown with French referee Aurelie Groizeleau, who blew a heap of penalties, 27 in the first stanza alone. They also could not cope with a clinical England lineout drive, which yielded no less than four tries, three to hooker Amy Cokayne, player of the match, who did some of her schooling at Feilding HS.

Again the Black Ferns started at a high tempo, but pushed passes and coughed up errors. In all, they made 12 handling mistakes, which were costly in the face of pressing England defence.

They did shore up their lineout, losing only two throws (down from seven or eight) but there was little in the way of clean ball from this source and a second half overthrow led to a try to England halback Leanne Infante.

It was all one-way traffic for the first three quarters as a clinical England chalked up points at regular intervals. Midfielder Grace Brooker limped off with a knee injury, while Kendra Cocksedge was controversially yellow carded for a deliberate knockdown when it looked like she hardly touched the ball. A penalty try rubbed salt into the wounds.

The Black Ferns hung tough with their veteran in the bin, Cheyelle Robins-Reti moving from fullback into halfback.

But England had the initiative and led 49-5 after 65 minutes. Injecting fresh legs off the bench, the visitors were able to find space for the outsides, and Stacey Fluhler, probably the best on show for the Black Ferns, was able to punch holes and scored a try herself.

She set up Woodman for the final try of the contest off a scrum move and an incisive thrust.

Left wing Ayesha Leti-I’iga was again penetrative, while new No 8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u carried hard. Patricia Maliepo’s passing game shone through after she subbed on, while hooker Grace Houpapa-Barrett made a good fist of her first start. Lock Maia Roos looked lively in her Test debut off the bench.

Woodman shelled her first pass, but ran hard and tackled with venom, while Fluhler tried her best to give the Black Ferns something to work off.

However, in the final analysis, England was just too good and will have to wear the favourites’ tag heading into Women’s Rugby World Cup 2022 in New Zealand.

The Black Ferns now cross the English Channel on a six-day turnaround for their first Test against France in Pau this weekend.


England 56 (Amy Cokayne 3, Ellie Kildunne, Leanne Infante, Lark Davies, Abby Dow tries, penalty try; Zoe Harrison 7 con) Black Ferns 15 (Portia Woodman 2, Stacey Fluhler tries)

HT: 28-0 England


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