With an Old Trafford World Cup Final against Australia awaiting the winners of tonight’s game between England and New Zealand, both sides came into the match knowing that as well as getting the win they needed to send a clear message to the Jillaroos that they would be in for a competitive competition finale.
England had been installed as slight favourites by the bookies as they were handicapped by two points on the coupon, but there was very little to choose between the sides ranked second and third in the world.
A nation hoped that the women could go one better than the men, who exited their competition at the same stage on Saturday, and reach their first ever World Cup Final.
A mistake from the Ferns in the third minute gifted England a great opportunity. The host nation used the tackles and moved the ball to the right with Fran Goldthorpe hitting a gap in the defence and diving in for the opening score of the game. Tara Stanley added the conversion, not the easiest for a first of the night, for the start that England had hoped for.
On fifteen the Ferns were in for their first try of the night with Mele Hufanga taking an Amber Hall pass after the big second rower had brushed off three attempted tackles in a twenty-metre break for the line. Brianna Clark dragged her conversion across the front of the sticks, England still with a slender lead.
Courtney Winfield-Hill forced a New Zealand drop-out after chasing down her own kick on twenty-three, but the following set was confused and England didn´t engineer a scoring opportunity.
On twenty-eight Raecene McGregor put the Ferns into the lead after a good period of pressure as she scooted from acting half-back and managed to get the ball onto the line under the tackle. Nicholls took over the kicking duties but rattled her conversion attempt against the far upright.
England trailed by two at the interval, but it was all to play for in the second half.
On forty-six the Ferns went in for their third try of the game as the amassed extra numbers down the left and when Otesa Pule threw a dummy and dropped her shoulder she had a run to the line to go in unopposed. Nicholls added the conversion for an eight-point lead.
The Kiwi´s were hitting their straps as the English defence crumbled. Some great long passes saw the ball end up in the hands of Clark who went through an enormous gap in the defence to score by the posts. Nicholls was again on target with the kick, England now in all sorts of trouble.
The clock was now running against England and the passes started to go astray as they forced the ball looking for the try that would get them back into the game.
Try as they might England just couldn´t find a way through the New Zealand defence and despite preventing the Ferns from scoring any further points they couldn´t add to their own total, losing by 20-6.
Heartbreak again for England and their supporters as they miss out inn another final, the torch now being carried by the wheelchair team on Friday night. New Zealand were too big and too fast for England and while the endeavour of the host side could not be faulted, they were a comfortable second best to the Ferns. New Zealand will now face Australia at Old Trafford on Saturday in a repeat of the last three Women´s World Cup Finals.
England: Goldthorp (T), Beevers, Stanley (G), Hardcastle, Burke, Roche, Winfield-Hill, Hoyle, Jones, Wood, Molyneuz, Rudge, Cunningham. Subs: Dodd, Bennett, Whitfield, Field.
New Zealand: Nicholls (2G), Vaha´akolo, Hufanga (T), McGregor P, Bartlett, Roache, McGregor R (T), Clark (T), Rota, Nu´uausala, Murdoch-Masila, Hall, Hale. Subs: Maynard, Hill-Moana, Pule (T), Scanlan.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-8 : HT : 6-12, 6-14, 6-18, 6-20: FT.
Lead Exchanges: England – New Zealand.
Referee: Kasey Badger.
Attendance: 7,139 at the LNER Community Stadium, York. (Double Header)