New Zealand blitz England in second half to take World Cup

Black Ferns fight back from half-time deficit with stunning performance in Belfast

New Zealand 41 England 32

The English machine derailed by wave upon crashing wave of blackness.

A never ending night until we move to Hong Kong or perhaps the Welsh Valleys in 2021.

New Zealand are world champions again. They ruthlessly snatched the cup from this immensely talented yet ageing English side (seven of them are 30-plus) in a style that must have made the early rising Kiwis go rouse the rest of the population.


Come see our girls cook the Poms.

Toka Natua on every girls lips this for the weekend and beyond.

Makes it difficult to allow the carrot of Olympic glory bury the 15-a-side game.

Simply unstoppable. Not the almost flawless Emily Scarratt or brutality of Sarah Hunter's pack could resist the pace and relentless drive from Fiao'o Faamausili's wonder women.

The Black Ferns drew first blood in an electrifying affair. A seemingly manageable crossfield punt by flyhalf Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali was rolling towards Scarratt when it suddenly skidded into Selica Winiata’s hands. The fullback being a natural born sprinter, glided away.

Scarratt’s ankle stayed and turned in the turf. Disaster for England on both counts was averted when their great centre, at 15 on this night, discarded her sock, strapped the ligaments and soldiered on.

Seconds later the ball was nudged into the backfield. Scarratt gobbled possession and made clean yardage. Before the first half was done she landed on the gammy leg from a ridiculous height. Not only did she rise but, after tentatively strolling over, she put the ball down and slotted a penalty to make it 3-5 with 15 minutes on the clock.

So many world-class players performed as if it was their last night on earth. Time and again English blindside Alex Matthews pounded through the initial black wall.

But daylight never followed on this Belfast night.

On 19 minutes the contest turned the way of the defending champions when Kiwi openside Sarah Goss was harshly sinbinned by referee Joy Neville. The former Ireland number eight, from the 2013 Grand Slam side, has a feel for the game and on first glance did not penalise Goss for flipping Katy McLean in the tackle. The yellow card appeared after Neville conferred with TMO Simon McDowell.

The openside returned to a 10-5 deficit following a penalty try off England’s monstrous scrum and it was 17-5 before New Zealand could get their slick paws near the ball.

McLean is easily the greatest female outhalf to ever lace boots. The 31-year-old's cut-out pass made flying Kiwi winger Renee Wickliffe look mortal as Lydia Thompson squirmed outside her to score in the corner.

Scarratt nailed the touchline conversion. Nobody else in the world can do that.

This is England. They would take New Zealand into their hurt locker and suffocate them.

The flurry of points that followed, as the game exploded onto UK prime time TV, was capped by the individual try of this tournament.

New Zealand hauled England back to 17-all with two power surges by loosehead Natua and a third by lock Charmain Smith. Their wily scrumhalf Kendra Cocksedge finally discovered her kicking groove to construct a 24-20 lead (Scarratt kept England afloat with a penalty).

With the crowd’s head still spinning England counter punched with some magic. Thompson turned to gather a chip over halfway, ducked a tackler before racing down the tramline for a stunning try.

The Black Ferns flicked into All Black mode, spearing through the heart of English rucks as Natua rumbled over for her hat-trick.

England were reeling. Both teams had landed their heaviest blows by the hour mark.

England coach Simon Middleton unloaded his reserves. The entire frontrow made way, as did their unflappable nine Mo Hunt and warrior flanker Marlie Packer.

But it was over. New Zealand kept unloading on them with Cocksedge squeezing through the previously unbreakable English defence to open up an 11-point gulf. Maybe the intensity and hundred-plus tackles needed to see off France drained the energy reserves needed to resist this phenomenal offering to the Maori gods.

Kiwis are a funny lot. You don’t know how many of them are among you until the tries start raining down. They certainly found their voice, no songs, just whoops as Winiata put an exclamation try on this final.

A great end to a tournament that spluttered until bursting to life in the semi-finals. Shame about the four-day turnarounds.

"I'd like to see the men do it," smiled the tournament's leading try scorer Portia Woodman.

None on this night but her 13 dot downs got them to this moment. To a woman they are a magnificent team. They needed all 41 points, they needed a prop’s hat-trick to dethrone the Red Roses.

Scoring sequence – 7 mins: S Winiata try, 5-0; 15 mins: E Scarratt pen, 5-3; 24 mins: Pen try, 5-10; 31 mins: L Thompson try, 5-15; E Scarratt con, 5-17; 38 mins: T Natua try, 10-17. Half-time. 44 mins: T Natua try, 15-17; K Cocksedge con, 17-17; 50 mins: E Scarratt pen, 17-20; 52 mins: C Smith try, 22-20; K Cocksedge con, 24-20; 55 mins: L Thompson try, 24-25; 57 mins: T Natua try, 29-25; K Cocksedge con, 31-25; 62 mins: K Cocksedge try, 36-25; 69 mins: S Winiata try, 41-25; 77 mins: I Noel-Smith try, 41-30; E Scarratt con, 41-32.

ENGLAND: E Scarratt; L Thompson, M Jones, R Burford, K Wilson; K McLean, N Hunt; V Cornborough, A Cokayne, S Bern; A Scott, T Taylor; A Matthews, M Packer, S Hunter (capt).

Replacements: A Reed for R Burford (54 mins), V Fleetwood for A Cokayne, R Clark for V Cornborough, J Lucas for S Bern (all 56 mins), I Noel-Smith for M Packer (59 mins), LT Mason for N Hunt (60 mins), H Millar-Mills for T Taylor (64 mins), A Wilson-Hardy for L Thompson (71 mins).

NEW ZEALAND: S Winiata; P Woodman, S Waaka, K Brazier, R Wickliffe; V Subritzky-Nafatali, K Cocksedge; T Natua, F Faamausili (capt), A Itunu; E Blackwell, C Smith; C McMenamin, S Goss, A Savage.

Replacements: B Wood for E Blackwell (27-33 mins, 74 mins), C Hohepa for R Wickliffe (59 mins), T Fitzpatrick for S Waaka (64 mins), A Nelson for A Itunu (67 mins), L Ketu for S Goss (71 mins), B Wood for C Smith (74 mins), T Talawadua for T Natua, TK Ngata-Aerengamente for F Faamausili (77 mins), K Sue for K Cocksedge (79 mins).

Sin bin: S Goss (19-29 mins), L Ketu (77-80 mins)

Referee: J Neville (Ireland).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent