Sat. May 25th, 2024

New Zealand win Women’s Rugby World Cup as England suffer final heartbreak

New Zealand celebrate winning the Women’s World Cup with the trophy. Photograph: David Rowland/Reuters

This was the biggest game of women’s rugby ever played and, somehow, it exceeded even that lofty billing. New Zealand are the Rugby World Cup champions but only after a quite stunning contest that showcased exactly why the tournament has caught the imaginations of so many.

A world-record crowd of 42,579 for a women’s fixture added further resonance to an occasion that had everything. It was also England’s worst nightmare.

The decisive moment arrived in the 72nd minute, when the Black Ferns scored their sixth try of the night through the replacement winger Ayesha Leti-l’iga, courtesy of a world-class offload from the centre Stacey Fluhler. But even then England had one last lineout chance on their opponents’ line, only to be denied and slip to their first defeat in 31 Test matches.

This was a great game of rugby and neither side really deserved to lose. Clearly it helped to have the host nation in the final, but people have also genuinely enjoyed what they have been watching. Beneath a clear evening sky this was another stunningly good spectacle: fast, frenetic and fluctuating.

England’s players react after defeat in the final. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

It was also a classic clash of styles, made all the more fascinating by the sending-off of Lydia Thompson in the 17th minute for a high challenge on New Zealand’s ace winger Portia Woodman. England’s set piece and driving maul, as ever, were outstanding, with Amy Cokayne scoring a hat-trick, but the Black Ferns backs were also an ever-present threat.

England had problems to address before kick-off, having lost their starting scrum-half Leanne Infante on the eve of the game with knee and ankle trouble. In came the relatively inexperienced Lucy Packer, capped on just eight previous occasions, for the biggest game of her young life.

The Red Roses, however, enjoyed the perfect start, having also come up with a smart response to the haka, spreading right the way along the 10-metre line in a wall of white. Barely three minutes had elapsed when, courtesy of an effective counter-ruck, they engineered space out wide and the full-back Ellie Kildunne finished coolly in the corner. England’s renowned maul was already starting to rumble ominously, the hooker Cokayne finishing off a perfectly executed driven score to make it 14-0 in as many minutes.

All too soon, though, England were down to 14 players. There could be no argument, Thompson having caught the unfortunate Woodman full in the face as the Black Ferns attacked down the left. It was to be the end of the evening for both players and a particularly sad exit for Woodman, one of the free-running stars of the women’s game.

Lydia Thompson (left) of England leaves the field after receiving a red card. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/World Rugby/Getty Images

It was just the encouragement the Black Ferns needed and they had their first try on the board almost immediately, with Georgia Ponsonby underlining that Kiwis also know how to maul. When Woodman’s replacement, Leti-l’iga, closed the gap further, it was the fourth try in the opening 25 minutes. Under the tutelage of Wayne Smith and his fellow former All Black gurus Sir Graham Henry and Mike Cron, the Black Ferns were being true to their word and giving it a crack.

The crowd were already excited enough even before Renee Holmes intercepted a pass from Scarratt and raced 80 metres to cross the English line at the other end. Unfortunately for the Black Ferns, advantage was being played to England back upfield and, with a certain inevitability, it was the Red Roses who mauled their way over again to make it 26-14 instead.

Could New Zealand respond again? The answer was yes, with another close-quarters score for the prop Amy Rule narrowing the half-game gap to a single score again. And within 30 seconds of the restart a thrilling break out ended with Fluhler running a perfect support line to complete a try to grace any final.

Ayesha Leti-l’iga and New Zealand celebrate the winning try. Photograph: Greg Bowker/Getty Images

England were starting to look rattled and the Black Ferns kept coming. Within four minutes of coming on to the field, the replacement front-row Krystal Murray was crashing over in the left corner and, for the first time in the game, New Zealand were ahead. Their advantage did not last long, yet another maul giving Cokayne the chance to complete her hat-trick and set up a compelling finale, ultimately decided by Leti-l’iga’s score.

The referee, Hollie Davidson, also deserved significant praise. Regardless of the outcome this tournament has felt like a coming of age for the women’s game, both in Aotearoa and further afield. If England have had full-time contracts longer than anyone else, their rivals are improving and standards are rising across the board. For now, though, it is New Zealand who continue to reign supreme as queens of the south … and the world.


By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of

Leave a Reply