Black Ferns suffer their heaviest home defeat as England win ...

5 Nov 2023
Black Ferns


The beaten World Cup finalists from last year defeated New Zealand 33-12 in Auckland to win the WXV1 tournament.

At Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland: England 33 (Alex Matthews, Lark Atkin-Davies, Sarah Bern, Morwenna Talling, Zoe Aldcroft tries; Holly Aitchison 4 con) Black Ferns 12 (Kennedy Simon, Katelyn Vahaakolo tries; Renee Holmes con). HT: 19-7.

The Black Ferns suffered their heaviest home defeat in test history on a night England’s players had been relishing for nearly 12 months.

England prevailed 33-12 to win the first WXV1 competition in Auckland on Saturday night, banishing some demons from the city where they lost last year’s Rugby World Cup final to New Zealand at the death.

For Allan Bunting’s Black Ferns, they finished the tournament fourth after home defeats to France and England (either side of thrashing Wales) and ended the season with a tumble at Mt Smart which leaves them with plenty to ponder over the summer.

The Black Ferns trailed 19-0 after England’s ferocious start, but tensions were high in the second half when the world champions reduced the deficit to seven as Katelyn Vahaakolo scored on the left wing.

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England fullback Ellie Kildunne fending off Black Ferns centre Amy du Plessis.

Her impact off the bench gave the Black Ferns more momentum in their carries and relieved pressure against England’s physical onslaught.

Star winger Ruby Tui and prop Amy Rule also led the charge as the hosts savoured the ball instead of kicking it back to England.

This English team know how to play smart, though, and the Black Ferns found their line speed tough to handle. They had joy moving the ball wide but made too many mistakes at key moments.

England withstood the comeback and were excellently led by their first five-eighth, Holly Aitchison, and indomitable skipper and loose forward Marlie Packer. Their scrum and defence were too often powerful.

They demonstrated their superiority with loose forward Morwenna Talling and lock Zoe Aldcroft’s second-half tries to repel the hosts, who were determined and gallant but outclassed by the team, rightly, with the world No 1 ranking.

The Black Ferns started shakily from the moment Renee Holmes was charged down in the opening seconds.

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Liana Mikaele-Tu'u running into England’s defence.

England meant business. They exerted an emphatic physical dominance and kept the ball alive, troubling the Black Ferns with their own game. Their offloads complimented the strength of their forward pack, who were punishing the hosts with huge tackles to apply more pressure.

Holmes also booted a relieving penalty dead, although she wasn’t alone in conceding unforced errors as England kept coming.

Their first lineout drive in the 12th minute resulted in another try for hooker Lark Atkin-Davies and further scores for the energetic loose forward Alex Matthews and busy prop Sarah Bern underlined England’s control in the first half.

The Black Ferns didn’t launch an attack in England’s half until the 26th minute.

They were fortunate Ellie Kildunne’s toes brushed the touchline to deny England another score before the break, but they made their only attacking opportunity of the half count.

A sweeping move set Tui free down the right and co-captain Kennedy Simon crashed over. Relief for the Black Ferns. Game on.

The big moment

Talling’s try in the 55th minute halted the Black Ferns’ momentum and gave England a 14-point advantage at a crucial time.


England’s forwards are an outstanding unit. Packer is the enforcer who leads from the front. You could hear her urging team-mates on all night. She unsettled the Black Ferns and loved it.

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Marlie Packer was announced as the world player of the year on Saturday night.

Match rating: 8/10

A quality contest between the top two sides in the women’s game. The Black Ferns deserve great credit for their fightback after England’s ominous start.

The big picture

The Black Ferns finished the season with five wins and losses to France and England, who end the year unbeaten with 10 successive victories.

Their previous record home defeat was against England (29-21) in Rotorua in 2017.

Meanwhile, France suffered another surprise loss on Saturday, going down 29-20 to Canada after their shock defeat to Australia last weekend.

The Wallaroos won their second successive match of the competition after beating Wales 25-19 on Friday night.

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