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England women's Super Series hopes halted by New Zealand

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 14/07/2019 Fiona Tomas
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14:  Renee Wickliffe #14 is congratulated by Kendra Cocksedge #9 and Eloise Blackwell #4 of New Zealand after scoring a try during the first half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) © Getty SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14: Renee Wickliffe #14 is congratulated by Kendra Cocksedge #9 and Eloise Blackwell #4 of New Zealand after scoring a try during the first half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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England 13 - 28 New Zealand 

England watched their hopes of a maiden Super Series crumble after New Zealand cemented their status as the most dominant force in women’s rugby two years away from hosting the World Cup. 

It took a trio of tries from Black Ferns winger Renee Wickliffe to numb England, who were denied the opportunity of pipping their southern hemisphere rivals at the top of the world rankings.

For a tournament that has flown under the radar in this illustrious summer of women’s sport - in part to its apparent low-key nature - the final spectacle in this competition decider oozed the physicality synonymous with the two best women’s outfits in the world. But what the men couldn’t do at Lord’s, the Black Ferns did in San Diego. 

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14:  Emily Scarratt #13 and Vickii Comborough #1 of England tackle Charmaine Smith #5 of New Zealand during the second half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) © Getty SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14: Emily Scarratt #13 and Vickii Comborough #1 of England tackle Charmaine Smith #5 of New Zealand during the second half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

England had mounted a lead in the World Cup final two years ago before New Zealand stormed back to steal the show and this encounter was a carbon-copy of that physical game in Belfast. 

Mitigating an England loss - only their second in the last 21 test matches - was the fact that Simon Middleton’s side had just four days to recover after beating France last Wednesday. New Zealand, meanwhile, were last in action a week ago and looked notably fresher. 

Buoyed by an early sin-binning to New Zealand’s Toka Natua, the Red Roses marched into a 10-3 lead after Emily Scarratt dotted down after ten minutes, the centre’s safe passage towards the whitewash indebted to Claudia Macdonald, who astutely held New Zealand’s defensive line on her outside. But England’s powerful forward carries became too predictable and as time wore on, New Zealand brought their trademark intensity that typically unites these heavyweights of the global game. 

In attack, Kendra Cockredge - arguably the best number 9 in women’s rugby- was at the heart of everything New Zealand constructed going forward. After 25 minutes on the clock, the scrum-half sidestepped five defenders to spread complete chaos in the English defence, before timing her offload perfectly to find Wickliffe who glided over for an easy finish. 

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England suddenly slowed at the break down and the handling errors crept in. Inevitably, New Zealand punished them. The Red Roses looked to have quelled any threat after Casey Alli ripped open England’s defence, turning the ball over just inside their 22. But their hard work was undone by Sarah Bern’s mis-timed pass which was lapped up by an alert Renee and the winger zoomed in for an easy second as England went in at half time 15-10 down. 

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14:  Emily Scarratt #13 and Vickii Comborough #1 of England tackle Charmaine Smith #5 of New Zealand during the second half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) © Getty SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 14: Emily Scarratt #13 and Vickii Comborough #1 of England tackle Charmaine Smith #5 of New Zealand during the second half of a match between New Zealand and England in the Women's Rugby Super Series 2019-Final Round at Torero Stadium on July 14, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Scarratt reduced the deficit to just two points after the break from the tee after Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate was shown yellow for repeatedly being offside but unlike before, England remained camped in their own half.  Instead, Cocksedge nailed a crucial penalty on the hour mark and England eventually caved to the sustained pressure. Theresa Fitzpatrick had been on the field for just four minutes when she unleashed a sublime offload just as she was sinking to the ground to none other than Wickliffe, who completed her hat-trick. 

Replacement Hannah Botterman was shown a yellow in dying minutes on a historic sport day of sport, which England - for all the ruthlessness they have showed in trampling over their Six Nations rivals - were humbled by a team which looks set to remain at the pinnacle of the women’s game for the foreseeable future. 

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