Belfast, Northern Ireland (AP) — New Zealand restored its supremacy in women’s rugby by relieving England of the World Cup by a score of 41-32 in the final on Saturday.
After winning four straight Women’s Rugby World Cups, beating England in three finals, the Black Ferns failed to make the semifinals in 2014 and watched England triumph in Paris.
But in benign conditions in Belfast, the New Zealanders came from 12 points down in a grinding first half to win comfortably in the end by nine.
“It was a lot about heart today,” New Zealand captain Fiao’o Faamausili said.
It was only after they scored their seventh and last try, a second by fullback Selica Winiata from a cross-kick by flyhalf Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, in the 69th minute that the Black Ferns made certain of their record-extending fifth title.
England took advantage of a yellow card against New Zealand flanker Sarah Goss to go up 17-5 and 17-10 into halftime.
But the Black Ferns took heart from their forwards working a try for prop Toka Natua right on halftime. They took the hint, and after the break they hardly gave England a sniff of the ball.
Working phase after phase, the Black Ferns forwards seemed to make ground at will. Natua scored her second try, then a break by center Stacey Waaka was finished by lock Charmaine Smith and New Zealand led, at 24-20, for the first time in half an hour.
England winger Lydia Thompson scored the second try of her brace by taking a New Zealand cross-kick and escaping two defenders, but New Zealand replied quickly with Natua completing a hat trick in the third quarter. She was player of the match.
Portia Woodman, who came in with a leading 13 tries in the tournament but was kept quiet on the wing, made the break for scrumhalf Kendra Cocksedge’s try, and Winiata completed their scoring with 11 minutes to go.
After replacement Lesley Ketu was sin-binned, ensuring New Zealand would finish with 14, England scored a consolation try from a rolling maul.
“We lost the momentum and they got on top and we couldn’t seem to get our hands back on the ball,” England captain Sarah Hunter said.
New Zealand coach Glenn Moore hoped the women’s game in the country would turn professional.
“You can be professional because you get paid money,” Moore said, “but it doesn’t stop us acting as professionals.”
New Zealand 41 (Toka Natua 3, Selica Winiata 2, Charmaine Smith, Kendra Cocksedge tries; Cocksedge 3 conversions), England 32 (Lydia Thompson 2, Isabelle Noel-Smith tries; penalty try; Emily Scarratt 2 conversions, 2 penalties). HT: 10-17