AUCKLAND, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Ayesha Leti-l’iga scored a try nine minutes from time to hand New Zealand a 34-31 victory over England in the thriller of a World Cup final. world on Saturday as the Black Ferns won a sixth in the world. title in a crowded Eden Park.
England played for more than three quarters of the match with 14 women after Lydia Thompson was sent off for a reckless tackle, but still looked on course for a 31st straight win with a two-point lead in the last 10 minutes.
However, center Stacey Fluhler chased a chip and brilliantly unloaded into the tackle of winger Leti-l’iga, who hit the ground for her second try to give New Zealand a lead they wouldn’t give up. not.
New Zealand’s win ended three years of England’s dominance of women’s rugby as well as their record winning streak, which included two thrashings of the Black Ferns late last year.
“I’m so proud of our team,” said New Zealand co-captain and player of the match Ruahei Demant. “Last year we went on the northern tour and we were fired up. We sacrificed so much for the only chance of winning a World Cup on home soil and we did it.
“We hope to have made our country proud and inspired the next generation of black ferns.”
A hat-trick from hooker Amy Cokayne on the rolling maul and tries from third row Marlie Packer and full-back Ellie Kildunne had kept England ahead for 15 of the 80 minutes.
“Sport can be cruel at times,” England captain Sarah Hunter said. “I’m so proud of how this team has shown itself not just tonight but over the past three years. I hope one result won’t define the team.
“We gave it our all tonight and unfortunately it wasn’t enough to bring home the trophy.”
New Zealand have been transformed under Wayne Smith this year, but the defending champions knew England would present the biggest test of their new high-tempo game.
“I don’t think a lot of people gave us a chance today,” said Smith, the mastermind behind two World Cup wins with the All Blacks.
“It will go down as one of the great experiences of my life. I love these women, I love what they did to get here.”
England, overwhelming favorites to win a third title, started at a gallop and had two tries before Thompson was sent off for hitting Portia Woodman with her head held high.
“She’s devastated, she’s as devastated by what happened to Portia as she is by what happened to her,” England manager Simon Middleton said.
“There’s no malice in that, it’s just a clash of heads. There’s no pointing a finger.”
Woodman was taken off the field on a motorized stretcher but New Zealand immediately cut the deficit with a try from hooker Georgia Ponsonby.
The English launched their well-oiled machine with a rolling maul at every opportunity and flanker Packer was next to use the opportunity to extend their lead and give the Red Roses a 12th try of the tournament from the maneuver.
Leti-l’iga had replaced Woodman and she finished brilliantly after 25 minutes to bring New Zealand back within five points, but Cokayne quickly landed again on another catch-and-drive to put New Zealand ahead. England at 26-14.
New Zealand prop Amy Rule scored after another maul to cut the lead to 26-19 at the break and the Black Ferns netted a two-point game from the second half kick off with a superb essay by Fluhler.
The hosts took the lead for the first time at 29-26 in the 49th minute when substitute prop Krystal Murray crashed a blind move with his first touch after a 50-22 from scrum-half Kendra Cocksedge.
England returned to the maul to give Cokayne their hat-trick and retake the lead five minutes later, however, and looked well placed when New Zealand co-captain Kennedy Simon was sent off to the sin bin in the 65th minute.
The Red Roses had their chances after Leti-l’iga’s second try but trusted the line-up rather than leveling the scores with a penalty – a confidence that was betrayed when the final line-up went wrong turned.
“We had absolute confidence in our process,” added Hunter. “There was no doubt that we would find a way. Games come down to nice margins and unfortunately that didn’t work out.”
Written by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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