2010 in review: Four in a row for Black Ferns

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 21 December 2010
By Paul Morgan
 2010 in review: Four in a row for Black Ferns
The Black Ferns have now won 19 WRWC matches in a row - Photo: Martin Seras Lima

In the rugby world we are often stopped in our tracks by a great try, great match or great tournament. You think back over the last 20 years and there’s Jonah Lomu smashing through the England team in 1995, Sir Clive Woodward lifting the World Cup in 2003 or Dan Carter destroying the Lions in 2005, before masterminding a European Grand Slam for New Zealand.

Joining these world-tilting events in 2010 was the Women’s Rugby World Cup, a tournament that left an indelible mark on anyone who saw a game, whether on TV or at one of the two venues.

Never before has a tournament outside of a Rugby World Cup captured the imagination of the rugby public as this Women’s Rugby World Cup did and it could be the most significant event in the history of the Women’s Game.

An incredible crowd of more than 13,000 saw the final between hosts England and defending champions New Zealand, which was without question the best game of Women’s Rugby ever staged. And those 13,000 didn’t pay a token £5. There was no ‘buy one ticket get two free’ offers. These 13,000 paid upwards of £20 a seat or used their £60 tournament pass and created one of the best atmospheres experienced at the Twickenham Stoop in recent years.

When England wing Charlotte Barras scored her side’s only try in the second half the ear-splitting noise was louder than anything I had experienced at the ground in 20 years of covering matches there.

VIDEO: Black Ferns claim another title

Ultimately the Black Ferns were too streetwise, particularly at the breakdown to give up their crown, lifting their fourth successive Women’s Rugby World Cup. A remarkable achievement by one of sport’s (not just rugby’s) great teams.

Even in the final frantic minutes, with England trailing by three points, the women in white were prevented from having even the opportunity to strike a fatal blow.

The Black Ferns survived having three yellow cards in the final as they fell foul of referee Sarah Corrigan at the breakdown.

The scores were tied at 10-10 until the 66th minute when Kelly Brazier landed the winning penalty.

"I was pretty nervous [with the penalty]. The crowd were making a lot of noise,” admitted Brazier. “I just thought of it as another kick and thankfully it went straight through the posts. Relief, but obviously there was still a bit of time on the clock so I knew it wasn't over yet."

There were many great stories in the New Zealand team, but perhaps none greater than Anna Richards’. The 45-year-old fly half was playing in her fourth World Cup final, having not even made the initial squad, only being called up for her fifth tournament because of injury.

Surreal feeling

"It feels awesome, it feels kind of surreal. It was an awesome atmosphere and kind of a strange game with all the sin-binnings. It was a weird game actually, but nice to come out on top,” Richards said.

"It definitely ebbed and flowed. I thought we had the better first 15 or 20 and then England came back when we had a couple of sin-binnings. It was a real ebb and flow game; a real typical final."

Richards knew the key to the victory was the way they coped with the yellow cards, adding: "Our composure was crucial, especially when we were down to 14 and 13 at some stages, and we believed in ourselves.

“It feels really good to win my fourth World Cup. I will believe it later but I am really happy. It doesn't get any better - it's the best."

The Black Ferns achieved what most people expected them to, but that should take nothing away from Melissa Ruscoe’s side. The pressure on them to win was huge; as they knew anything less would be seen as a failure back home.

“The girls just put their whole heart into it and got us through the game,” said Ruscoe. "It's a patience game and rugby is a game of 80 minutes and it certainly went the full distance. We knew if we could just get back down their end, no one has scored on us from their own 22."

Great advert for Women's Rugby

Heroines were created in the tournament, particularly in the ranks of the hosts and to hear Will Greenwood, the former England World Cup winner declare that Maggie Alphonsi could play for a side in the RFU Championship shows the huge strides that were made in terms of perception and visibility for the women’s game.

England’s players sank to their knees at the final whistle but even defeat didn’t dim the performance of Alphonsi, who confirmed her status as one of the best players in the world and still appreciated the effect the tournament had on Women’s Rugby.

"It is heartbreaking. We have worked for four years to achieve this and to come out with a loss is hard work,” Alphonsi said.

“But I have to look at the game, it was a great game of rugby and advert for Women's Rugby. At the end of this tournament if you look at it we have got so many spectators who have seen some great women's rugby and hopefully we will get more girls taking up the sport. 

"New Zealand were great, they played really well. Our English girls played awesome as well but unfortunately the best team won on the day, but in four years time we will be back.

"Our defence was amazing, it was solid, the breakdown was really good, and just a few penalties that killed us a little bit. But I take my hat off to our English girls, we were fantastic, dug in from the start and we chased every person down. Gutted but at the same time I am proud of my girls and the tournament itself.”

VIDEO: Double celebrations for Hohepa

New Zealand also had the IRB Women's Personality of the Year 2010, awarded in association with Emirates Airline, in their ranks as flying wing Carla Hohepa was crowned at the end of the tournament.

The 25-year-old fought off stiff competition to take the coveted award from England duo Alphonsi and Danielle Waterman and Australia wing Nicole Beck. 

"I can't take all the credit for it but it's an awesome honour to win this award. The whole team performance was fantastic, everyone has put 100% in and it showed out there today," said Hohepa.

England’s assault on the title was based on their incredible defence, and they ended the tournament conceding the fewest points with 23 across the five matches, 10 fewer than champions New Zealand. Kazakhstan conceded the most at 203, with Scotland, South Africa, Sweden and Wales all leaking more than a century of points. 

Behind the top two there were big breakthroughs elsewhere, most notably for Australia, who finished third after perennially ending up outside the top four, beating France 22-8 in the play-off.

“We came here, we made history,” said Australia captain Cheryl Soon. “First would have been nice, or top two, but after our loss against England our goal was to finish third and we achieved that so we are very pleased with the result.”

The third place has massive repercussions for the Wallaroos as they will now avoid the Black Ferns in the pool stages next time around, and make a real tilt on making their first final.

Australia enjoyed their best ever finish of third place - Photo: Rugbymatters.net

The USA, meanwhile, edged the North American tussle for fifth place, beating Canada 23-20.

"Whenever we play Canada we know it's going to be tough for us and we like to think this is the one that counted but I'm just glad we had them there,” said USA coach Kathy Flores.
“I'm glad we didn't drop but we would like to be higher than fifth. We came in fifth, we stayed fifth, but we've still got a lot of work to do."

Ireland are another side moving forward, and they can be rightly delighted with their campaign which ended with them finishing seventh, following a 32-8 win over Scotland.

"This is huge for the girls. Seventh in the world is a great achievement for us. I know it's only one place further on for us than four years ago but the standard of this World Cup has been hugely impressive so this is a huge achievement for us,” said Ireland coach Philip Doyle.

Kazakhstan ensured they ended Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 on a high by recording their first win of the tournament with a 12-8 victory over Sweden to claim 11th, while Wales recovered from pool defeats to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia to beat South Africa 29-17 to finish ninth.

“We wanted to finish the tournament on a high and with a good performance to show people that we can play good rugby,” said Wales co-captain Mellissa Berry. “It was a fantastic performance by our girls. You don't come here looking at ninth-12th ranking, but the situation we had after the pool stages you want to get to the best you can, so all credit to our girls for digging in and showing people we can come away with the result."

But it wasn’t just the rugby that made this the best Women’s Rugby World Cup to date – the structure was spot on with the venue for the pool matches and some of the play-offs, Surrey Sports Park, being one of the stars of the show. Housing all the teams there was inspirational and created an Olympic Village-type atmosphere, which must be preserved for future tournaments to come.

Roll on 2014!


Interesting stats:

  • The Black Ferns have now won 19 consecutive World Cup matches since their only defeat, a 7-0 loss to USA in the 1991 semi-finals.
  • The three-point winning margin is the closest any team has come to beating New Zealand in their four World Cup winning campaigns since. 

  • Thirty thousand fans attended the 30 matches at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010, be it at Surrey Sports Park or the Twickenham Stoop. 

  • The honour as the leading try scorer of the tournament is shared between Black Ferns flyer Carla Hohepa and Canada wing Heather Moyse with seven. Moyse matched her tally of seven four years ago, which made her the top try-scorer then.
  • Nine players scored four tries at WRWC 2010 with Ireland No 8 Joy Neville the only forward among them. 

  • Kelly Brazier's title-winning penalty means she ends Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 as the leading point scorer with 48, taking her above Canada fly half Anna Schnell by two points with USA No.10 Christy Ringgenberg third best on 44 points.
  • Kazakhstan and Sweden were the only sides to average less than a try a match. 

  • A total of 65 yellow cards were handed out across the 36 matches with Kazakhstan receiving the most at 10, one more than South Africa. By contrast England and Scotland had only one player sin-binned in the duration of the tournament. 

  • Kazakhstan received the tournament's only two red cards with scrum-half Amina Baratova's against South Africa and then second row Svetlana Karatygina in their victory over Sweden.

Final standings:

1. New Zealand
2. England
3. Australia
4. France
5. USA
6. Canada
7. Ireland
8. Scotland
9. Wales
10. South Africa
11. Kazakhstan
12. Sweden