World Cup Win The Last Word For Many Black Ferns
26 May 2002
The Black Ferns face a mass exodus from their ranks after they successfully defended their title with a 19-9 win over England in the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium today.
Coach Darryl Suasua, captain Farah Palmer and up to half the squad of 26 intend to hang up their boots this year and they went out on an impressive note by turning back a searching challenge from the semi-professional England side.
In a tight and fairly untidy match, the Black Ferns were inspired by halfback Monique Hirovanaa and blindside flanker Cheryl Waaka, who both capped commanding games with a try apiece.
New Zealand’s other points came through two first-half penalties to fullback Tammi Wilson and a late three-pointer from replacement back Hannah Myers.
England’s points all came from the boot of first five-eighths Shelley Rae, who was also her side’s best player, along with hard-running loose forward Claire Frost and barging second-five Selena Rudge – an expatriate New Zealander.
The New Zealanders once again also let themselves down by conceding a string of penalties at the breakdown, and ultimately outstanding lock Victoria Heighway was sinbinned in the second half.
However there was plenty to be impressed about in the Black Ferns’ performance.
Their remarkable defence refused to yield a try to the English – in fact no points were conceded while they were a player down – and when they turned to the kicking game of Wilson, Hirovanaa and first-five Anna Richards in the second half, England spent virtually the entire 40 minutes pinned in their own half.
The Black Ferns also applied plenty of pressure with their rolling mauls and athletic lineout jumpers, and although for once they were edged in the scrums, their territorial dominance and continuity of play in the second half shut England out of the game.
It was a highly satisfying win for Suasua as England had rated themselves as a technically smarter side than New Zealand before the final but it was they who were ultimately out-thought by the Black Ferns.
“We tried to mix it up first by running a few sequences and a few phases because I thought they might hang back for our kicking game, which they did,” said Suasua.
“As soon as they realised that we were running it, rather than kicking it, they started to come forward. It was a matter of being patient but as they got shallower on defence, we switched back to the way we played against France, where we kicked for territory and kept them down there with our defensive play.
“In the second half there were only a couple of times that they got out of their 22. The other big thing was that our line wasn’t crossed again, so we haven’t conceded a single try in the whole tournament, and I’m just stoked about that.”
It was also sweet revenge for the Black Ferns, who were beaten 22-17 by England last year – the New Zealanders’ first defeat in over 10 years.
“I was disappointed that weren’t able to convert breaks to points today because of the number of knock-ons, but on the other hand England were able to take advantage of any of their opportunities because of the pressure we exerted on defence,” he said.
“Last year our defence wasn’t the greatest and we’ve worked on that quite a bit. We knew if we kicked the ball down there, they would try to run it back, and if we tackled well we could pin them down there.
“I’m stoked to finish like that. It will probably be the last Test for a few of the girls, so we’ve gone out on a high, winning back to back titles, and that’s pretty special.
“After we won in 1998, a lot of countries went away and worked on their programmes to improve their play, so we knew we had to be better than before to win this time, and I believe we were.”
Hirovanaa celebrated her 36th birthday in style by scoring New Zealand’s first try in the 33rd minute, after the two sides had traded kicks for England to lead 9-6.
With England a player down after collapsing a series of mauls, Hirovanaa shot down a narrow blindside to score virtually unopposed from a ruck on the edge of England’s 22.
Her try put New Zealand ahead 11-9 and only desperate defence from the English forwards denied them two more tries before the break.
Hirovanaa, playing in her 24th and last Test, made a second big contribution six minutes in the second half when she sold a classic dummy after running off the back of a lineout close to halfway. She was able to run 35m before drawing the fullback and passing to Waaka, who scored from 10m.
That try took New Zealand out to 16-9, and with the Black Ferns’ pack beginning to assert the territorial dominance that underscored their victories earlier in the tournament, it proved an insurmountable lead.
Suasua admitted after the match he had put a lot of pressure on Hirovanaa to perform in the final after she had looked well off her game earlier in the tournament.
“We weren’t happy with her form going into the final but she did a lot of soul-searching and came up with a try herself and a beautiful break to set up the second for Cheryl. When one person puts on two tries like that, it makes it pretty hard for the opposition,” Suasua said.
Black Ferns 19 England 9
For the Black Ferns: Tries by Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka. Two penalties by Tammi Wilson. Penalty by Hannah Myers.
For England: Two penalties and a drop goal by Shelley Rae.
Black Ferns team: Tammi Wilson, Dianne Kahura, Annaleah Rush, Amiria Marsh, Suzy Shortland (Hannah Myers 65min), Anna Richards, Monique Hirovanaa, Rochelle Martin, Adrianne Lili’i (Melodie Robinson 72min), Cheryl Waaka, Victoria Heighway, Monalisa Codling, Rebecca Luia’ana, Farah Palmer (captain), Regina Sheck (Helen Vaaga 51min).