Black Ferns kick off 2024 in emphatic fashion

Black Ferns WEB

The hosts scored four of their nine tries in the opening eight minutes as any prospects of a visitor's victory was dashed.

At the first Black Ferns scrum two quick passes left set Katelyn Vaha'akolo free. Ruahei Demant trailed on the inside and a bullet left to right pass beyond two defenders to Amy du Plessis opened the scoring.

Liana Mikaele Tu'u was the Black Ferns top tackler, and a smashing hit forced an Eagles fumble. Again, Vaha'akolo found space and supplied Ruby Tui who transferred inside to Mererangi Paul.

Vaha'akolo was the top try scorer in Super Rugby Aupiki for the champion Blues and she showed the full gambit of her skill with a 60 metre run away; beating six defenders.                                                                         

The USA was shell-shocked and when Paul prized the Eagles open again, she had passing options both inside and outside but chipped ahead instead, thankfully regathering the ball for a spectacular second. 

A kick was the source of Paul’s third try as well. Debutant halfback Maia Joseph (daughter of All Black Jamie Joseph) cross-kicked to the right wing from a penalty advantage. Joseph was assured on her debut clearing quickly and occasionally varying her options. 

Lock Maama Mo'onia Vaipulu was the other starting debutant, and the Blues bookend was busy and bustling. Her 26th minute try made it 36-0 to the Black Ferns.

The USA made 77 tackles and missed 18 in the first half. 

The Eagles held New Zealand scoreless from the 27th minute to the 55th minute and performed with genuine heart. 

Paul was forced to showcase her tackling prowess halting a Gabby Cantorna break while she had to hurry with the support of Tui to prevent a possible Lotte Clapp try. Interestingly Clapp is a former English international.

The injection of prop Chryss Viliko, debutant Hannah King and combative loose forward Kaipo Olsen-Baker infused some much needed spark into the Black Ferns. In the 55th minute Paul could have scored a fourth try after slick handling from multiple players, but instead she generously offloaded to Tui who scored her 13th try in 13 Tests. 

Blindside Freda Tafuna was the Eagles best player. A floor installer of Tongan extraction out of Lindenwood University in St Charles, Missouri she scored the Americans only try after 14 gusty phases. Tafuna scored a try against the Black Ferns last year and in 2023 won the MA Sorensen Award named after Maryann Sorensen, who was a women’s collegiate rugby trailblazer at William & Mary and was the starting prop for the USA when they won the 1991 World Cup and made the next two World Cup finals in 1994 and 1998. 

Prop Hope Rogers in her 46th Test and lion-hearted lock Hallie Taufoou were stoic. Openside Georgie Perris-Redding topped US the tackle count.

Black Ferns No.8 Layla Sae lasted the entire 80 minutes and had the last say when she pushed off three players in a 30m surge to the line. 

Three scrum penalties and a rudderless period after the explosive beginning are areas that will need to be addressed by the Black Ferns ahead of Canada next Sunday. 

King kicked all three conversions she attempted. The Black Ferns have won 14 of their 15 internationals against the USA and secured a Pacific Four Series bonus point by scoring nine tries to one.

Today’s win is the Black Ferns biggest against the USA since a 67-6 victory in Chicago in 2018. Their largest ever win against the USA was 86-8 in 1996.

The Black Ferns have won 104 of 123 Tests, including seven in a row in the Pacific Four Series.

Black Ferns: 57 (Amy du Plessis, Mererangi Paul 3, Katelyn Vaha'akolo, Mo'onia Vaipulu, Ruby Tui, Layla Sae, Patrica Maliepo tires; Ruahei Demant 3 con; Hannah King 3 con) USA: 5 (Hallie Taufoou) HT: 36-0


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