Kiwi Ferns beat England to set up trans-Tasman World Cup decider
The Kiwi Ferns have overcome a wobbly start to beat hosts England 20-6 in York and book a place in the women’s Rugby League World Cup final against Australia.
New Zealand conceded the first try but dominated the remainder of a hard-hitting test on Tuesday morning, scoring two tries in each half and having led 8-6 at the interval.
It sets up a heavyweight decider in Manchester on Sunday morning (NZT) against a Jillaroos side who thrashed Papua New Guinea 82-0 in the first semi-final.
Australia have won the last two World Cup finals in tight trans-Tasman affairs – in 2013 and 2017 – after New Zealand won the first three editions of the tournament.
The teams played a ferocious group match last week, won 10-8 by Australia.
England weren’t pushed in group play and they made an ideal start when centre Francesca Goldthorp crossed in the fourth minute following a mistake by Black Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls.
New Zealand’s response began through a try to centre Mele Hufanga, off the back of two strong runs from prop Amber Hall.
Halfback Raecene McGregor put New Zealand in front with an elusive try soon before the break.
They took firm control with two tries in the space of five minutes – to forwards Otesa Pule and Brianna Hall – both of which were set up by strong runs from player of the match Hufanga, who is making her New Zealand rugby league debut at the tournament.
A Blues Super Rugby Aupiki player, Hufanga has been a revalation, the 28-year-old showing the form that has seen her go close to Black Ferns test selection.
She told Spark Sport the Black Ferns dug deep when emerged for the second half holding a fragile two-point advantage.
“I think it was just our mentality and our attitude. We knew that it’s a do or die for us,” she said.
“We were like, ‘we’re not going home’. We had to come out of the changing rooms in the second half having the attitude and just getting that second wind.
“It’s their home turf so it was a big thing for us to just block out the (crowd) noise and worry about us. I think that’s what got us through.”
Australia reinforced their favouritism with a 15-try rout of Papua New Guinea which featured hat-tricks to fullback Emma Tonegato and centre Isabelle Kelly.
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