Then came March 25. The entire country went into level four lockdown and self-isolation at home. And from there a string of cancellations of events around the world and a huge reshuffle of the women’s rugby calendar in New Zealand. Allblacks.com take a look back on the year that was 2020.
Black Ferns Sevens win maiden Hamilton title & their sixth World Series title
Back in January, pre Covid-19, the Black Ferns Sevens were crowned champions in their debut World Series tournament on home soil in Hamilton. They defeated Canada 24-7 in their final, with hometown hero Stacey Fluhler playing a starring role all weekend. It’s a real shame the series was cut short, with Fluhler having her best season to date. She’d scored the most tries with 31 and was the DHL Impact Player of the season as well. The Black Ferns Sevens travelled to Sydney the following weekend and played in tropical conditions. One day was 44 degrees, the other was torrential rain. But the ladies came out on top again and they were able to introduce new blood, with Jazmin Hotham making her debut on the second day for the injured Ruby Tui. Sydney ended up being the last tournament of the 2019/20 season, with the World Series forced to cancel a few weeks later. It meant with already four titles under their belt, they claimed a remarkable sixth World Series title.
Canterbury made it four in a row in the Farah Palmer Cup
2020 produced a fantastic Farah Palmer Cup competition. With a slightly later start and adjustment to the pools system, the North pool kicked off in the first week of September. The women’s domestic competition came alight this year with Sevens stars joining the party. They brought their flare, speed, and exceptional skills to the Farah Palmer Cup, with the likes of Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui, Cheyelle Robins-Reti and Portia Woodman topping the try scoring charts. Northland had a barnstorming season, almost upsetting the Auckland Storm and then defeating Counties Manukau. Waikato and Canterbury went through their North and South pools respectively, without dropping a match and they found themselves in the final at Christchurch’s Rugby Park. It was a final for the ages. Defence was ruthless from both sides and with time up on the clock, Waikato found themselves ahead 7-3. But in true Canterbury style, the defending champions refused to give up and 53 seconds after the buzzer, Cindy Nelles barged her way over the try line to cause jubilation for her side and heartbreak for Waikato. The Red and Blacks winning their fourth title in a row. An impressive feat after a tough year.
Black Ferns take on NZ Barbarians in two-game series
Covid-19 also got in the way of what would have been an historic year for the Black Ferns. They were set to play seven Tests on home soil, and one more in Australia. It was all part of the build-up towards next year’s Rugby World Cup in Auckland and Whangarei. Instead, three exciting matches were put back on the Black Ferns schedule, with the Possibles v Probables fixture taking place on Auckland’s North Shore ahead of a two-match Black Ferns series against the New Zealand Barbarians. And what a series it was. Black Ferns coaches will have their work cut out for them selecting their side for next year’s World Cup, with a huge amount of talent on display. The New Zealand Barbarians pushed the Black Ferns in both matches, only losing by two in the second game in Nelson.
Rugby World Cup 2021 launches & the draw is decided
Back in February, Rugby World Cup 2021 was launched at Eden Park as the countdown well and truly got underway for the huge event on New Zealand shores next September. A spectacular draw event took place at Auckland’s SkyCity Theatre in November, with the Black Ferns drawn in Pool A alongside Australia, Wales and a yet to be determined final qualifier. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the draw alongside fellow ball drawer’s Dr Farah Palmer, Melodie Robinson and Dan Carter. The ninth edition of the tournament will take place from September 18 – October 16 next year, in Auckland and Whangarei. The match schedule will be announced in the new year.
More success for PAC7s and Red Bull Ignite7
The Pasifika Aotearoa 7s Cup took place last month at Bruce Pulman Park in Auckland. In it’s seventh year, the tournament continues to get bigger and better. 53 teams participated in what is the biggest women’s sevens tournament in the world. From under 11 rippa rugby to open grade women’s and open Tight 5, the tournament was again hailed a huge success and has become a real highlight in the rugby calendar. Hamilton Girls took out the U18s title, One Tree Hill the Under 15s, Ponsonby the open women’s and Barbarians the Tight 5.
With our top Sevens players forced to stay put in Aotearoa, they joined forces with our up-and-coming talent in a special edition of Red Bull Ignite7 tournament in Mount Maunganui. Our Black Ferns Sevens and All Blacks Sevens players selected their teams through an awesome draft event and an exciting week of action kicked off. It saw both the women’s and men’s Bolt team’s taking out their respective titles and a star was born in 16 year-old Christchurch Girls’ High School student Jorja Miller. The teenager taking out the MVP award.
Future looking bright
Speaking of Jorja Miller, she joins an exciting list of talented teenagers and youngsters on the rise in the women’s game. Manawatu’s Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Auckland’s Patricia Maliepo and Sylvia Brunt as well as the likes of Counties Manukau flanker Lisa Molia, who was named in the Black Ferns squad this year, but injury ruled her out of the series. Waikato’s Kelsey Teneti, Otago’s Maia Joseph and Canterbury’s Amy Rule just to name a few. The future of the women’s game is looking seriously bright.