From the Last Word on Rugby department.
The applause is still ringing around Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, after the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final. It was a change in tactics that allowed the New Zealand Black Ferns to win their fifth World Cup title – winning 32-41 over England.
But it seemed like the Kiwi women would be outsmarted by England in the opening 40 minutes. Denied possession, it starved the New Zealand Black Ferns of ball and England managed to run out 17-10 at the halftime mark. The English girls returned to the field with confidence, until the change in tactics, and importantly a change in attitude, which helped them to win the final.
“I’m so proud of the girls, we dug deep. Today we showed our character in our team, our culture, and I couldn’t be any prouder.”
New Zealand captain Fiao’o Faamausili, with tears of joy, spoke of how the team had recovered from not being able to play in the 2014 World Cup final, to taking away the World Champions title for 2017.
A very good result for the Black Ferns. It showed how they could demonstrate both a wide game in the earlier matches, and when asked to, the champions were able to adapt. England tested them; and would have won against any other team, but in the end the skills-base and determination showed that this New Zealand team were deserved winners.
Change in Tactics Wins New Zealand Black Ferns WRWC2017 Title
Holding the early advantage, England were showing their ferocity and size advantage in the pack. Pushing around the smaller Kiwi women, they ‘bossed’ them and even after Selica Winiata scored the opening try, the Red Roses built into the game. Forward drives and tight play gave them a huge territorial and possession advantage.
The attacking threat on the outside was negated by the left-wing defense from England. They denied the try scoring weapon that is Portia Woodman, and even a series of kick-passes did not break the trend.
But after the halftime talk from head coach Glenn Moore, the attitude improved. The New Zealand Black Ferns played a different game. Pick-and-Go was the tactic, with tight forwards contributing. None more so than ‘Player of the Final’ Toka Natua. She scored before half time, and her and her team mates in the pack changed the game plan to suit.
Natua and players like Charmaine Smith, the heroic halfback Kendra Cocksedge, Aldora Itunun and powerful ball from Aroha Savage. The pick and roll from Savage, one off play that ended up being a strength for the Black Ferns.
And they recovered from a yellow card offense from Sarah Goss. Her ten minute penaly cost points, but when Natua scored before the halftime break, it repaired that damage.
A Tale of Two Halves
28% possession in first half, compared to 78% in the second half. England will look back at this result and be in awe at the remarkable reversal in form. But they can hold their heads up for leading the tournament from the front. Captain Sarah Hunter spoke of how proud she was of her team.
“We fought for everything. I’m so proud of the girls, and to have captained this fantastic side. Thank you to all the supporters who have come here tonight, and are watching back home.
“One result doesn’t make us a bad team, and the girls can stand tall and be proud.”
Hunter will know that the game swung after 35 minutes. “We just lost the momentum, and they got on top of us.” Even acknowledging that, a number of England players displayed fantastic skills. Lydia Thompson was their ‘Player of the Day’.
Daryl Sousou, former-Black Ferns coach nailed it when he said “the forwards rolled their sleeves up.” And it was that change in game plan which ultimately resulted in the New Zealand Black Ferns winning their fifth World Cup, in their fifth finals match [unbeaten].
France Secure Third Place in WRWC2017
In the proceeding game, France removed the disappointment of not making it past England, to charge through the third place playoff game.
This was the best performance from a French women’s side, and they built-up a big score that the US Eagles could not recover from. Full credit to the US team, for reaching new heights and the growth of the women’s game in both Europe and the Americas shows the new strength in the women’s rugby game.
Look forward to a full breakdown of Day Five results from the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, later today. Congratulations to all the players and officials, on a terrific event and a fabulous World Cup final; won by New Zealand 32-41.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images