Woodman bags seven tries in Japan rout

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In their final hit-out before Rugby World Cup kicks off in a fortnight, the pace of the Black Ferns game, coupled with their attacking variation, was too much to handle for the Sakura 15, who were playing their first Test match against the ladies in black.


The chief beneficiary of the fast ball and solid platform laid by the forwards was left wing Portia Woodman, who was irrepressible and unstoppable in running in seven tries, many of them brilliant finishes showcasing her familiar speed and guile. Woodman, fresh from her sevens duties, ran in three tries in the first spell and four in the second.


All the sevens ladies made a swift, smooth transition to 15s, Stacey Fluhler scoring a try off the bench and setting up two others. Sarah Hirini, at openside in her first 15s Test in five years, scored a cracking first half try off a nice switch by captain Ruahei Demant.


The opening salvoes shaped up like it was a Kendra Cocksedge benefit, the classy halfback scoring the first 14 points with two tries and two conversions. She took the shorter range goalkicks, while fullback Renee Holmes took the wider ones.



Prop Amy Rule and Joanah Ngan-Woo were among the standout forwards who ensured quick ball with their powerful carries and accurate set-piece work. No 8 Charmaine McMenamin warmed to her work and she is progressing pleasingly fast after her comeback from long-term injury.


Woodman ran some prime angles and took the outside gap at will, and is looking in fine fettle heading into her second World Cup. At one stage she crossed for three tries in 12 minutes. But no back played better than Amy du Plessis, who looks to be growing in stature as an international-class midfielder, perhaps benefitting from some tuition from Conrad Smith.


Du Plessis scored one try, made several breaks up the middle and wider and moved into second five in the latter stages.


Ruby Tui, on the right wing, got in on the act with some surging runs and a nice try all of her own.


In all, the Black Ferns scored 15 tries and are looking deadly on the counter and turnover ball but with plenty of strikes moves still up their sleeve.



The Sakura 15 will seek to shore up their defence, but looked likely on the few occasions they were able to press the Black Ferns. Their reward was tries in each half to blindside flanker Seina Saito and replacement prop Yuka Sakada.


They have much work to do, however, ahead of their October 9 Rugby World Cup opener against Canada in Whangarei. The Black Ferns look ready to showcase some more expansive rugby when they open their RWC campaign at Eden Park on October 8 against the Australian Wallaroos.


Black Ferns 95 (Portia Woodman 7, Kendra Cocksedge 2, Luka Connor, Sarah Hirini, Renee Holmes, Amy du Plessis, Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui tries; Cocksedge 5 con, Holmes 4 con, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu con) Japan 12 (Seina Saito, Yuka Sadaka tries; Ai Hirayama con)


HT: 45-7 Black Ferns


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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.


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