A year later in front of a world record crowd for a women’s rugby international of 42,379 at Eden Park, Fluhler grinned gloriously again. In the 73rd minute she threw an improbable offload from the ground to wing Ayesha Leti-I’iga to put the Black Ferns ahead 34-31 in the pulsating Rugby World Cup decider.
It was a try that required such rare skill and courage it ended Fluhler’s game, but she was still smiling when helped from the field, roared to the side-line by the euphoric home crowd.
There was still Mahi required on defence but the smile of Fluhler is unbreakable and so was the hosts spine. England’s trademark rolling maul was at last denied in the final play of the game as the Black Ferns emerged victorious.
Earlier, the Black Ferns went down 14-0 down in as many minutes as Ellie Kildunne and Amy Cokayne scored tries for England.
In the17th minute Lydia Thompson dashed across to stop a Portia Woodman break down the sideline. Unfortunately, both heads clashed with Thompson, the tackler, red carded. Thompson scored two tries in the 2017 World Cup final against the Black Ferns.
Except for occasional breakouts by the Black Ferns, the game soon followed a restart, regression, rumble pattern.
The Red Roses rolling maul was unstoppable. It was ironic that Georgia Ponsonby scored the Black Ferns first try from a rolling maul. Marlie Packer responded in the same fashion for England.
Leti-I’iga found rare space on the wing, but only after a rolling maul, before Amy Rule and Cokayne traded maul tries from rolling mauls. The halftime score was 26-19 to England, a seven point deficit is the same as the 2017 World Cup final win. Neither team lost a lineout in the first half with 13 combined wins.
Fluhler dazzled at the start of the second spell with a break from the 22 linking with fellow Gisborne girl Renee Holmes before getting it back again, 24-26.
Prop Krystal Murray put the Black Ferns ahead 29-26 only for Cokayne to complete her second consecutive hat-trick against the Black Ferns to make it 31-29 to England.
A Kennedy Simon yellow card in the 64th minute provided a big opening for the Red Roses but the Black Ferns held their nerve to stop England’s world record 30 consecutive test wins in its tracks.
On November 7, 2021, the Black Ferns lost 56-15 to England.
Ngā Mamaku o Aotearoa – the Black Ferns. “We will gather and unite together. Strength together. It will be done.
Black Ferns: 34 (George Ponsonby, Ayesha Leti-I’iga 2, Amy Rule, Stacey Fluhler, Krystal Murray tries, Renee Holmes 2 con) England: 31 (Ellie Kildunne, Amy Cokayne 3, Marlie Packer, tries, Emily Scarratt 3 con)