England's women boost confidence with NZ win

(IRB.COM) Sunday 22 November 2009
 England's women boost confidence with NZ win
England captain Catherine Spencer on the attack against New Zealand - Photo: rugbymatters.net

England Women had cause to celebrate on Saturday after battling to a first victory over world champions New Zealand in eight years, captain Catherine Spencer scoring the only try in a 10-3 win at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Black Ferns had won the first test 16-3 last weekend and then crushed England A 48-6 on Tuesday, but both sides stepped up a gear for an historic occasion which saw them follow the All Blacks' victory over England.

A record crowd of 12,500 stayed on to watch the world's top two women's teams battle it out despite the heavy drizzle that fell throughout the match and were treated to a high-quality end to end affair with neither side taking a backward step.

The Black Ferns, many of them playing their third match in the space of a week, signalled their intentions with their pre match haka ending with the foremost player almost touching noses with the England line.

The three-time world champions were eager to complete the clean sweep on their tour of England, not to mention securing another confidence boosting victory with the Women's Rugby World Cup only nine months away.

Forward power key to win

New Zealand did score first with Rebecca Mahoney kicking a 12th minute drop goal, a score witnessed by a large number of the All Blacks who stood at the mouth of the tunnel watching their country's women in action.

The Black Ferns continued to find space behind the England defence with their kicking game, but as time went on the home pack began to win turnover ball as a result of the intense pressure put on their opponents at the breakdown.

A charge up field from Claire Purdy ultimately led to the only try of the match - and first the Black Ferns had conceded on tour - with the ball worked across the field for captain Catherine Spencer to touch down in the 22nd minute.

Spencer, on the occasion of her 50th cap, was a constant thorn in New Zealand's side, be it at the breakdown or charging off the back of the scrum and making good ground, supported well by the returning Maggie Alphonsi.

Katy McLean added the conversion off the upright and the score remained at 7-3 until a minute after the restart when the fly half enjoyed another slice of luck with a drop goal also going over off another upright.

World Cup success the target

Both sides had their chances as the match progressed, defying the rain and subsequent greasy conditions by throwing the ball across the pitch and being stopped just short on a number of occasions.

Neither side, though, was able to break through resolute defence and New Zealand replacement Anika Tiplady saw two penalties, one of them from long range, miss the target to leave England players ecstatic at the final whistle.

"It's brilliant to win here at Twickenham in front of our biggest ever crowd," said England head coach Gary Street. "Hopefully we have shown the people watching here today and watching on Sky (TV) what a fantastic sport this is, and how skilful the women's game is at this level too.

"We won this game because of our physicality, our defence was tremendous and we really believed in ourselves. Catherine Spencer today put in one of the great Twickenham performances. To come out and play as well as she did being captain and earning her 50th cap is amazing. She is a tremendous athlete and brilliant leader of this team.

"From here now the important thing is that we keep moving forward and improving. We know that winning the World Cup is not a pipe dream anymore, we can do it and that is our goal for the next nine months."

ENGLAND: 1. Claire Purdy 2. Amy Garnett 3. Sophie Hemming 4. Rebecca Essex 5. Joanna McGilchrist 6. Heather Fisher 7. Maggie Alphonsi 8 Catherine Spencer (captain) 9. Amy Turner 10. Katy McLean 11. Charlotte Barras 12. Rachael Burford 13. Claire Allan 14. Kat Merchant 15. Emily Scarratt.

Replacements: 16. Sam Reeve 17. Rosemarie Crowley 18. Tamara Taylor 19. Jane Leonard 20. Georgina Rozario 21. Alice Richardson 22. Fiona Pocock.

Tries: Spencer
Conversions: Mclean
Drop goal: McLean

NEW ZEALAND: 1. Ruth McKay 2. Fiao'o Faamausili 3. Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox 4. Vita Robinson 5. Victoria Heighway (captain) 6. Casey Robertson 7. Justine Lavea 8. Linda Itunu

15 Kelly Brazier (Otago) 14 Victoria Grant (Auckland), 13 Huriana Manuel (Auckland), 12 Amiria Rule (Canterbury) VC, 11 Carla Hohepa (Otago), 10 Rebecca Mahony (Wellington), 9 Emma Jensen (Auckland), (Auckland).

Replacements: 16. Claire Rowat 17. Kimberly Smith 18. Beth Mallard 19. Olivia Coady 20. Kendra Cocksedge 21. Renee Wickcliffe 22. Anika Tiplady.

Drop Goal: Mahoney