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New Zealand fight back after England threaten famous upset at the Stoop

The Guardian The Guardian 19/11/2016 Ian Malin
Rochelle Clark broke Donna Kennedy's record for most international caps.: Rochelle Clark broke Scotland back-rower Donna Kennedy’s record for international appearances but the milestone wasn’t enough to prevent New Zealand fighting back for a 25-20 win over England at the Stoop. © Tom Jenkins for the Observer Rochelle Clark broke Scotland back-rower Donna Kennedy’s record for international appearances but the milestone wasn’t enough to prevent New Zealand fighting back for a 25-20 win over England at the Stoop.

A landmark for the England women’s team across the road from Twickenham but New Zealand’s Black Ferns confirmed that, like the All Blacks, they are the undisputed No1 side in the world. The visitors won 25-20 and England might have created an upset had their place-kicking and finishing in the first half been more accurate.

Rochelle Clark, who had led the England team on to the field at The Stoop, came off the bench 15 minutes after the interval to make her 116th appearance, passing the record of Scotland’s back-rower Donna Kennedy. It almost inspired a famous English victory against a side that has recently twice pulverised Australia but England, 17-7 ahead before Clark came on, could not stop a rousing comeback by New Zealand whose scrum-half Kendra Cocksedge scored 20 points, including 14 in five minutes that turned the game on its head.

It was a brave effort by England, who have beaten France and Ireland in the last fortnight and whose flanker Marlie Packer was outstanding. Her side showed in flashes they will be hard to beat when the World Cup comes round in Ireland next year.

England made a blistering start, a weaving run by Lydia Thompson taking her into the New Zealand 22. England recycled the ball and Danielle Waterman gave Fiona Pocock the chance to score in the corner. Emily Scarratt, making her 60th appearance for England, caused more mayhem with a storming run and things went from bad to worse for the visitors when their lock, the policewoman Charmaine Smith, was sent to the sin-bin for infringing as the England pack drove forward from a lineout.

The Black Ferns weathered that particular storm but Waterman and Scarratt continued to test the mettle of New Zealand’s well-organised defence. Katy McLean’s long pass almost gave Pocock a second try in the same corner. But this time the outcome was not so happy for the wing who injured her shoulder in a collision and had to be replaced by Claire Allan.

England were spurning chances and New Zealand, after some ferocious pressure, scored with the last move before the break, Chelsea Alley giving a pass to Renee Wickliffe to score in the corner, a try converted from close to the touchline by the scrum-half Cocksedge.

After the break, though, New Zealand lost another player when Selica Winiata was shown a yellow card for holding Packer back and this time England took advantage. Harriet Millar-Mills, the Lichfield lock, was driven over after the pack splintered the New Zealand defence with a powerful maul. The flanker Packer then blasted another hole with a run and Thompson had the chance to weave her way to the line for a third try. McLean converted for the first time and England had a 10-point lead.

Clark came on to an enormous cheer and New Zealand began to exert pressure, Wickliffe just missing a chance to score a second in the corner. Clark was up against an enormous replacement prop Aotearoa Mata’u and the Black Ferns’ scrum helped create space for Cocksedge to dart over for New Zealand’s second try which she converted just past the hour mark. Cocksedge scored again after the pack had driven forwards and New Zealand were level. The scrum-half converted and the Black Ferns were ahead.

McLean had left the field and Scarratt took over the kicking duties but her penalty attempt with 10 minutes remaining drifted wide. England were given another lifeline when Scarratt had another penalty chance from the same position. This time she made no mistake.

Packer was then shown a yellow card for obstruction at the breakdown and Cocksedge kicked the winning penalty from in front of the posts.

Canada come to Twickenham next Saturday for the final game in this Old Mutual Wealth series, bringing happy memories for Scarratt, who scored the winning try against the Canadians in the World Cup final two years ago.

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