New Zealand Wins Women Rugby World Cup
New Zealand have won the Rugby World Cup after a dramatic 34-31 victory over England at Eden Park.
England played more than an hour with a player down after Lydia Thompson was sent off for a reckless tackle, although an Amy Cokayne hat-trick and further scores from Marlie Packer and Ellie Kildunne had kept the Red Roses ahead going into the closing minutes.
The Black Ferns trailed for most of the match but moved ahead when Ayesha Leti-I’iga posted a try in the 71st minute in front of a sell-out home crowd, with New Zealand holding on to claim a thrilling victory over the pre-tournament favourites.
New Zealand’s victory is their sixth world title and fifth in a World Cup final over England, while the Red Roses’ narrow defeat ends a record 30-match winning streak for Simon Middleton’s team.
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 champion.
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 replacement winger Ayesha Leti-l’iga, courtesy of a world-class offload from centre Stacey Fluhler. But even then England had one last line-out 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.
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