2006: New Zealand retain Women's RWC crown

(IRB.COM) Sunday 17 September 2006
 
 2006: New Zealand retain Women's RWC crown
A third successive title means the Black Ferns have won 14 consecutive Women's Rugby World Cup matches

New Zealand have been crowned Women's Rugby World Cup champions for an unprecedented third time after a hard fought but pulsating 25-17 defeat of England at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada.

A try by full back Amiria Marsh in the final minute eased any nerves that may have been setting in for the Black Ferns after England kept alive their hopes of snatching victory with a 77th minute try by replacement Helen Clayton.

However it was not to be their day again - just as it was not four years earlier when they lost 19-9 in the final - as the New Zealand celebrations began to mark not only three in a row, but a 14th straight Women's RWC victory that ensured captain Farah Palmer lifted the trophy again before retiring.

It was England who drew first blood in the match with a third minute penalty by fly half Karen Andrew, their reward for taking it straight to the two-time defending champions and signalling their intentions for the game.

Black Ferns scrum half Emma Jensen missed a ninth minute penalty before a knock on metres from her own line by full back Amiria Marsh put her side under pressure. England though could not turn it into points and New Zealand stole the ball to clear their lines.

Perfectly weighted

Andrews missed the chance to stretch England's lead with a failed penalty attempt after 16 minutes, allowing Jensen to leave the score with her first successful kick of the game seven minutes later.

A second penalty miss by Jensen seemed to mean the half time score would be locked at 3-3 with neither side willing to give the other an inch in a fiercely competitive match which highlighted the strengths of the women's game.

However a wonderfully deft cross field kick by Marsh, who had a few minutes earlier received lengthy treatment on what appeared to be a hip injury, found a gap on the right and it was worked through for Monalisa Codling, playing in her third Women's RWC final, to run to score the opening try of the showpiece.

Jensen added the conversion to make it 10-3 and a long range penalty miss by Andrews for England meant that was the half time score. It would not remain that way for long though, as in the opening minute Melissa Ruscoe found wing Stephanie Mortimer who had the pace to cross.

England though came back at the Black Ferns and were rewarded for some intense pressure on their line when referee Simon McDowell awarded them a penalty try, sparking celebrations among the England front row.

Nailbiting finale

That brought the score to 15-10 and it remained that way for some 20 minutes of end to end action, although Mortimer came close to grabbing a second try but put a foot in touch before being bundled into the flag by an desperate England tackle.

The New Zealand pressure finally told though when lock Victoria Heighway collected off the top of the lineout and was driven over by her fellow forwards for her second try of the tournament, stretching their lead to 20-10 after Jensen's conversion came back off the post.

England though, desperate to avoid another bitter final defeat, continued to fight and got the try they craved when replacement Helen Clayton was pushed over, the flanker twisting round to touch the ball down behind her.

Shelley Rae's conversion brought them to within three points with less than three minutes remaining and as the possibility of an extra time forcing score came to mind, New Zealand had the final say with a break by Mortimer finding Marsh with the pace and space to score.

Jensen missed the conversion, but it didn't matter as within seconds the celebrations were under way for the Black Ferns with a 14th straight Women's RWC victory and, more importantly, a third world crown to send captain Farah Palmer into retirement with.

QUOTES

New Zealand coach Jed Rowlands: "When I took over after the last World Cup I was thankful Farah and some others chose not to retire. I think it was important to have continuity on our squad. We worked very hard and were lucky to have two tours to Canada to give our younger players some experience.

"I'm very please with our team's performance in the tournament. The other countries are getting better and England was disrupting our ball. We had to adjust at half time, which is a testament to the higher standards in the game.

"Scoring at the last instant was a great way to finish the game and have that be the last play. We came here to score tries and we did that. For us, it's the best way to finish."

New Zealand captain Farah Palmer: "I don't think the other finals meant any less than this one just because it was my last for New Zealand. It's a great way to finish my career as a Black Fern, but as our coach says it's just a game like any other. I need to lift my standards to every game equally.

"I felt this final was a lot tougher than the last. We were on defence much more than in previous World Cups. England were hitting us really hard and it was an intense match.

"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we have high standards. We know everyone is working at how to beat us. People at home expect a win, but that's why we play an elite sport. We love the pressure.

"The key moment in the match for us was coming out in the second half to score right away. It really lifted our spirits because our call at half time was to be patient. We've been used to scoring on breakaways and we needed to set up some phases. It's hard to be patient, but it's very important."

England coach Geoff Richards: "We were turning over a lot of ball in the first half and our body height was miles too high. At half time we talked about that and slowing their ball down. Just to keep going. I knew we could make a contest of it.

"Our strategy was to stop their pace out wide. It's difficult to defend when you are constantly defending phase after phase after phase. They were camped on our line for so long and we kept them out. Eventually, the dam wall burst and they made it through.

"We wanted to take them in the scrum and I think we did. Our set pieces worked really well. Unfortunately, you need primary possession to win games. We had it in the first half, but not in the second. We need to look to control the ball and recycle under pressure.

"From here, we'll regroup. We've got an exciting young crop of players coming through, some of whom were here today to start that. We have system in place and our programs are really producing rugby players who can take on best in the world. We will go back and work very, very hard.

"Obviously we are just really devastated at the final. To not come up with the result is difficult after all our effort and work. Our girls gave all they had and more."

England captain Jo Yapp: "It means an awful lot to play with a team like we've got behind us. They are such a great bunch of players. We play for each other and have great team spirit. To come here with that kind of team behind us is really special.

"We gave everything we could. New Zealand never gave up. I think it was a really hard fought contest. We'll look back and say it was a good final. Our ability to keep going under pressure and the pressure we put on them was really great. We never gave up for 80 minutes. We always believed we could do it and that belief was there until that final try."

England centre Sue Day: "To be honest, once you get on the pitch anything that's gone on before is out of the picture. It's all about giving it everything you can on the day. I think it was a pretty good rugby match today. Obviously New Zealand are a very, very good side."