The two Pool A matches lived up to expectations with Australia
starting brightly and then grabbing a bonus point try with the last
play of the match against Wales, before New Zealand came firing out
the blocks against a spirited South Africa to top the standings on
NEW ZEALAND 55-3 SOUTH AFRICA
By Duncan Wood
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The Black Ferns of New Zealand served notice that they might again be the team to beat at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 as they overcame a spirited South Africa side 55-3 with wing Carla Hohepa scoring three tries and centre Kelly Brazier contributing 15 points.
The game was effectively settled as a contest within the first quarter as the three-time defending champions New Zealand made the most of the wind at their backs and ran in three tries in the first 15 minutes.
South African heads never dropped and they worked terrifically hard in defence but it was New Zealand who gave a lesson in taking chances as they ran in nine tries. The Black Ferns now have an iron grip on Pool A whereas South Africa have it all to do.
The tone was set from the first minute as centre Huriana Manuel made a scything break after the Black Ferns received the kick off. South Africa held out but it was a brief respite as swift hands across the backline gave Hohepa room and she easily outflanked her opposite number to score. Brazier added the extras.
Playing into a stiff breeze, South Africa had trouble getting out of their own 22 and a close range try for hooker Fiao'o Fa'amausili soon followed after a five-metre scrum was needlessly conceded to give the Black Ferns a dream start.
South Africa's travails continued as full back Zandile Nojoko missed with a penalty attempt and New Zealand ruthlessly countered with Anna Richards' fine pass putting Brazier through a gap in the midfield defence and under the posts, Brazier converting her own try before Hohepa caught South Africa napping for her second.
It didn't get any better as Manuel added a fifth as South Africa were punished for failing to find touch and it was 33-0 with the game barely into its second quarter.
Nothing went South Africa's way. Nojoko missed with another penalty attempt and even a charged down New Zealand kick led only to a second try for Manuel after a fortuitous bounce, while Phumeza Gadu was denied a score as her kick ahead ran dead before she could touch down.
With the wind at their backs, South Africa came out fighting in the second half but an interception score from distance by New Zealand wing Renee Wickliffe was a further body blow.
There was still plenty of courage from South Africa but the defensive effort was starting to take a toll and Hohepa's hat trick try made it 48-0 after 55 minutes.
It was third time lucky for Nojoko as she kicked a 65th minute penalty but a further try from Casey Robertson underlined New Zealand's superiority and signalled their intent to retain the title they have held since 1998.
POST MATCH REACTION
New Zealand coach Brian Evans: "We were a bit patchy. I thought for the first 30 minutes that we were excellent but there's plenty to work on.
"We'll be working on looking after the ball a bit better, we blew quite a few chances and were a bit flat at times. Even defensively, we over committed at times at the breakdowns when we didn't need to."
New Zealand hat-trick scorer Carla Hohepa: "It was awesome; it's good to get a win under the belt. All credit to the forwards [for my hat-trick], great set pieces and they let the backs fly. We will prepare [for Australia] the same as usual and we know that they are a step up. It's great to be out there, it's a great atmosphere, good supporters have come over from New Zealand and I'm raring to go for the next match."
New Zealand centre Huriana Manuel: "We came out firing, we were very excited for the first game and you saw that on the field. It was our goal to make a statement. We're not here to lie down, we're here to challenge for the cup and I think we put that across."
South Africa coach Denver Wannies: "We knew that if we allowed them ball, that they would come for us and we would have problems. We spoke long and hard at half time about keeping our own ball and putting it to use as well as sharpening up our defence. And we did improve in the second half but we didn't use the wind as well as we wanted to.
"It's obviously a privilege, it's a honour for me representing my country being here. It's just a pity we couldn't stand up to the challenge from the world champions but as I said once again, they are not world champions for nothing."
South Africa captain Mandisa Willams: "We knew what was coming and we prepared for it. It was a tough game for us but we're looking forward to Wales now and our World Cup starts here."
Video - Performance of the Day: Carla Hohepa
WALES 12-26 AUSTRALIA
Australia got their bid to create history by uniting the Sevens and 15-a-side World Cups off to a good start with a 26-12 victory over Wales on day one of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2010, although they left it to the last minute to secure what could be a crucial bonus point.
The RWC Sevens 2009 champions ran in three tries in a sparkling first half display at Surrey Sports Park, only for three yellow cards to allow Wales back into the opening Pool A match of the tournament.
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Despite conceding two second half tries, though, the Wallaroos dug deep and impressive full back Tricia Brown scored from the last play of the match to secure the four-try bonus point they had been seeking.
Wales made a bright opening, dominating the early passages and pinning the Wallaroos in their own half with some crunching tackles, but it was Australia that took the lead through wing Nicole Beck.
From lineout ball, Cobie-Jane Morgan and Brown combined for Beck to dive over in the corner, with the wing then making light of the gusty wind to add the extras from the touchline.
Only some last ditch Welsh defence denied Beck a second try after Morgan's perfectly judged chip forced Mared Evans to concede a lineout five metres from her own tryline.
It was a temporary reprieve, though, as from a subsequent scrum in front of the posts, Wales simply had no answer to the power of centre Sharni Williams, who crashed through the tackles to touch down.
Playing into the wind, Wales were being forced to run from deep, only to be repelled time and again by a wall of gold jerseys. They were undone for a third time when Brown made a great line break before feeding Morgan, who turned Rachel Taylor inside out before finishing.
But Wales were then given a boost when Wallaroos number 8 Alex Hargreaves was sin binned, and nearly capitalised on their player advantage only for Non Evans to be bundled into touch in the corner. Late Wales pressure also went unrewarded to leave the Wallaroos sitting on a healthy 21-0 half-time lead.
Healthy that was until Wales made the perfect start to the second half when their pressure from their pack resulted in the awarding of a penalty try, full back Non Evans adding the conversion from in front of the posts.
Australia may have been back up to their full complement, but Wales had the bit between their teeth and their cause was further helped when Caroline Vakalahi and Ili Batibasaga were despatched to the sin bin in quick succession.
Anywhere would do for the Wallaroos as Wales piled on the pressure, but crucially they could make no further inroads into the Australian lead before Vakalahi and Batibasaga returned to the field.
Replacement prop Lowri Harries drove over to renew hopes of a Welsh fight-back, but then at the death Brown sliced through the red shirts to ensure the Wallaroos got their World Cup campaign off to a bonus point winning start.
POST MATCH REACTION
Australia coach John Manenti: "When you haven't played for 12 months you've got to start building from somewhere and I think that gives us somewhere to start the campaign from, and once we go back and look at the vision of the game we'll see what areas we have to work on to improve going forward.
"The reality is our pool is such a difficult pool it's probably fair to say that if you don't win every game it's going to be very hard to be the next best qualifier, so we've got to put ourselves in a position where we can qualify as the first placed qualifier and that means winning every game."
Australia captain Chris Ross: "They [Wales] used the wind well, they kicked very well and we also had a bit of ill-discipline and dropped numbers, so we were battling up hill a bit in the second half, but gritted it out.
"Its building blocks; first game in over a year it was very important for us to get it under our belts, and bonus points, and then move on from here."
Wales coach Jason Lewis: "Of course we are
disappointed. Our expectations were perhaps greater than that. We
knew Australia would be a good team, we knew that they would be
strong and this proved to be the case. It took us a while to get
into our game and it was probably not quite enough or too little
too late in the game.
"[At half time] I just brought them back to the game plan and the way they wanted to play. They slightly lost sight of that in the first half and re-established this in the second half for a good second half performance."
Wales captain Mellissa Berry: "It is a disappointing result but there still are a lot of positives we can take from it and there is still a lot of rugby left to be played in this World Cup. You can't rest and be down about that because you know in four days time we have another game to play. Right now, disappointed, annoyed and frustrated because there were opportunities for us there to actually take the game.
"It was always going to be a hard start to the competition
playing Australia, but also as well just the whole occasion I think
we took a lot longer to settle then they did. It did show the
quality we have in our team when we settle and we get to play our
kind of game. Like I said, they are going to be one of the best
teams we come up against them, so all credit to them to take the