Glory…and redemption. When our brilliant Black Ferns won that thrilling Women’s Rugby World Cup Final (the best-ever Women’s Final, surely), they in turn exorcised the ghost of a comprehensive defeat by England on Eden Park a couple of months back.
On that drizzly Auckland evening, the English outmuscled the Kiwis, got their devastating rolling maul rumbling along too many times to mention (including one drive of almost 30 metres), and held a bigger mortgage on possession than the median Auckland house price listing.
But in the Belfast final yesterday you could almost say that our women and their canny coach, Glenn Moore pulled a swifty- they convinced the media and almost everyone else that the final would hinge on their ability to nullify the English forwards (the fact is they did a lot more than just nullify- they crucified them), and then hopefully move the ball out to strike weapons like Woodman and Winiata of the back three.
However, things transpired very differently, as we know. The Ferns forwards monopolised possession and kept the ball in play to such an extent the English could not garner much possession from the very basis of their weapon of attack, the lineout. Crucial of course, being that this is from where they usually launch their frighteningly good maul.
And don’t forget, the Ferns were down a player for a quarter of the time through two sin-binnings. Their own fault of course, although Sarah Goss may have felt a smidgin hard done-by, but the impressive thing was they did not panic and in fact even seemed to move up a notch after the second yellow. Perhaps by that stage they had broken England’s will. Toko Natua certainly had a major hand in that department, showing incredible leg drive in surging over three times in her wonder performance. Three tries for a prop in a World Cup Final? Good grief, Tony Woodcock and Tony Daly (remember him? 1991), no doubt thought they were doing well just grabbing one. But three? Outrageous.
Portia Woodman deservedly grabbed most of the headlines over the tournament for her prolific try-soring deeds, but my personal favourite player was Victoria Subritzsky-Nafatali, the first-five eighth, the 10. Her partnership with the halfback Kendra Cocksedge was, by quite some distance, the pick of the best on show in those positions. The fulcrum of the team, certainly.
Aaah, Subritzky-Nafatali. Built like a prop, with a way of running best described as economical. But with feet more twinkling than a Bolshoi ballet dancer and a boot better educated than Stephen Hawking. And a word on Sarah Goss. Could this woman just about be the fittest sportsperson in NZ? Does she have a nickname already? It should be ‘Tireless’.
And finally, to paraphrase Keith ‘The Mighty’ Quinn, from a famous line of commentary back in 1978: “Count them, 1…2…3…4…5, Five titles”.
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