Women's Rugby World Cup: England lose 41-32 as New Zealand win fifth title
|World Cup final: England v New Zealand|
|England (17) 32|
|Tries: Penalty (7pts), Thompson 2, Noel-Smith Cons: Scarratt 2 Pens: Scarratt 2|
|New Zealand (10) 41|
|Tries: Winiata 2, Natua 3, Smith, Cocksedge Cons: Cocksedge 3|
England's reign as world champions was ended by a magnificent performance from New Zealand as the Black Ferns ran in seven tries in Belfast.
A penalty try and the first of Lydia Thompson's double helped England lead 17-5 approaching the break.
But it was a narrow advantage having dominated territory and possession, and the Black Ferns then took control.
Prop Toka Natua led the way with a hat-trick as New Zealand became world champions for the fifth time.
Flying full-back Selica Winiata grabbed a brace and Charmaine Smith and Kendra Cocksedge also went over as the Black Ferns regained the mantle of world champions, which England had held since beating Canada to win the title in 2014.
It was a dizzying, end-to-end contest for the first 70 minutes, before New Zealand finally managed to secure a decisive lead, and although Izzy Noel-Smith had the last word for England, it was purely a consolation score.
How good was the final?
Pace, power and class were evident on both sides, but in the end it was the individual superiority of the Black Ferns that combined to overrun England.
The Red Roses had some fine performers, with Emily Scarratt shrugging off an early leg injury to again show her class from full-back, while young prop Sarah Bern was once more irrepressible and Thomas showed superb finishing ability to score her brace.
But although England's pack looked the more cohesive unit for the first half hour, the longer the game went on the more the relentless physicality of the big New Zealand runners knocked them back, with Aroha Savage and the rest of the pack joining Natua in delivering big performances.
Alongside them carrying hard into the England defensive line was mighty fly-half Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, who combined the size and power of a front rower with fine footwork, crisp distribution and a measured kicking game to help guide the Black Ferns to victory.
England give it a go
After an early shock, when Winiata sped onto Subritzky-Nafatali's chip to open the scoring, England looked as though they were going to retain their title.
Their pack had the upper hand at the set-pieces and they mixed up their game, with forwards and backs combining beautifully, to take a 12-point lead with half-time in sight.
They had turned 72% of possession into two tries - Thompson producing a fine finish for the first before a dominant scrum earned a penalty try - and Scarratt's boot had made it 17-5.
But then came the game's pivotal moment. England fly-half Katy Mclean, with a three-woman overlap outside her, decided instead to kick from just inside her own half.
The Black Ferns had players back for just such a decision and they mounted a surging, multi-phase counter-attack which ended a minute later with Natua bundling over, and the momentum of the game had changed irreversibly.
New Zealand stamp their authority
England tried to go toe-to-toe with the Black Ferns and they twice regained the lead, the second time courtesy of Thompson as she scorched down the wing, leaving the tournament's leading try scorer Portia Woodman floundering in her wake.
But, in the 15 minutes that followed England going back in front 25-24, New Zealand - who had 80% possession in the second half - blew the Red Roses away.
Natua went over to complete her hat-trick - the television match official happy she had released and regathered rather than knocking-on - Cocksedge sniped over and Carla Hohepa handed Winiata her second on a plate after another pin-point Subritzky-Nafatali cross-kick.
England's defence had been demolished and although they rallied to score the final try of a high-class match, there was no doubt that New Zealand are the best side in the world and deserving world champions.
Defeat 'bitterly disappointing'
England's Emily Scarratt, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live: "It is unbelievably tough to take. When you come with one goal and get yourself into a position to achieve that, it is bitterly disappointing.
"We played some good rugby in that first half but it's hard to play well if you don't have the ball. We will come again in four years' time. Fair play to New Zealand, they executed their plan better than we did ours."
England coach Simon Middleton, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live: "It is a disappointment. We came here to win. We just could not get possession.
"They played a really smart game. When we did get the ball they had a massive physical presence, they are so good at playing that short game, that was the story of the second half.
"We did react, but we literally couldn't stop them. They were very efficient at keeping the ball. Full credit to them. When you get two great teams together, one is always going to come out on the wrong side."
World Cup final teams
England: Emily Scarratt; Lydia Thompson, Megan Jones, Rachel Burford, Kay Wilson; Katy Mclean, Natasha Hunt; Vickii Cornborough, Amy Cokayne, Sarah Bern, Abbie Scott, Tamara Taylor, Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer, Sarah Hunter (capt).
Replacements: Vicky Fleetwood, Rochelle Clark, Justine Lucas, Harriet Millar-Mills, Izzy Noel-Smith, La Toya Mason, Amber Reed, Amy Wilson Hardy
New Zealand: Selica Winiata; Portia Woodman, Stacey Waaka, Kelly Brazier, Renee Wickliffe; Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kendra Cocksedge; Toka Natua, Fiao'o Faamausili (capt), Aldora Itunu, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine Smith, Charmaine McMenamin, Sarah Goss, Aroha Savage.
Replacements: Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Sosoli Talawadua, Aleisha Nelson, Rebecca Wood, Lesley Ketu, Kristina Sue, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Carla Hohepa