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After a rocky start the Aussie in the lead the Black Ferns came back strong and took the win. Video / Spark Sport
Black Ferns 41
In their opening match of the World Cup, the Black Ferns have shown there is sometimes more than meets the eye than just the final result.
While their 41-17 win over Australia is impressive on paper, an alarming opening half hour will give the side plenty to ponder in the week ahead.
Playing in the final match of the opening day, a day which saw three of the top four seeds in the competition take to the field, one thing was clear – everyone has some work to do if they’re going to catch top-ranked England.
For the Black Ferns, head coach Wayne Smith appears to have plenty of work ahead of him. While his side came away with the win, the first 30 minutes would have been a nervous watch in the coaching box as Australia dominated proceedings.
It’s clear the Australians are cutting into the deficit between the two nations. Coming into 2022, they had never led the Black Ferns at halftime in a test. Now, in four tests this year, they have led two at the break.
From dropping the ball from the opening kick-off, the Black Ferns were under pressure from the outset. On the rare occasion they had the ball in that span, their combinations looked far from comfortable. A backline who have never played together in the configuration they were sent out in looked exactly that, as players looked at times like they weren’t on the same page.
Perhaps it was a case of the occasion getting the better of them – a World Cup has never been played in the southern hemisphere – but whatever it was, Australia took full advantage of the early lapses from the New Zealand side.
Aided by some early penalties that allowed them to run set plays deep inside the Black Ferns’ 22, the visitors twice found success through right wing Bienne Terita. Those two tries were separated by one to left wing Ivania Wong, who snapped up a loose Black Ferns pass that looked destined to hit the sideline, running 60m to score.
There were things to like in the performance for the Black Ferns. Amy du Plessis, in her first start at second-five, and right wing Ruby Tui impressed across the park, the pack did plenty of important work defensively and got on top of the Australians as the match progressed, while when the backline fired it was a joy to watch.
When the Black Ferns did get settled – which took a long, patient period of play that saw their forwards do plenty of work up the middle before eventually the ball found its way to the speed on the edges – they looked like a version of the team that could give the tournament favourites a run for their money.
Getting on the board through a powerful carry from lock Joanah Ngan-Woo from close range, it seemed like the side just needed to get points on the board before things started to click. It wasn’t long before they were in again out wide through Portia Woodman, and trailing by just five points at the break.
But the pendulum had well and truly swung towards the Black Ferns, and the second half was a showcase of the high-tempo game this team was put together to play.
The likes of Sarah Hirini, Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui and Ruahei Demant found plenty of success with their running game in the second half, with Woodman scoring two more tries – one after a magical blind pass out the back from Fluhler – while Tui also scored a second half double and replacement forward Awhina Tangen-Wainohu got on the scoresheet to extend Australia’s wait for a win over the Black Ferns.
Black Ferns 41 (Portia Woodman 3, Ruby Tui 2, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Awhina Tangen-Wainohu tries; Kendra Cocksedge con, Renee Holmes 2 cons)
Australia 17 (Bienne Terita 2, Ivania Wong tries; Arabella McKenzie con)
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The Black Caps got their World Cup preparations back on track with a comfortable win.