New Zealand beat England to win women's Rugby World Cup, France take bronze

© Michael Bradley, AFP

New Zealand's running game trumped England's power to win a thrilling final of the women's Rugby World Cup 34-31 in Auckland on Saturday and retain their title in front of a record 40,000 crowd.

It was a spectacular end to a tournament that has broken records for attendances and came after England played three-quarters of the game with 14 players.

Winger Ayesha Leti-I'iga put the Black Ferns ahead with their sixth try and they held on at Eden Park to halt England's world-record winning streak at 30 matches. It was the hosts' sixth World Cup title.

England's winger Lydia Thompson was shown a red card for a head-high tackle but they still nearly pulled off victory thanks to the ferocity of their forward play.

Four of England's five tries came from lineout drives, including a hat-trick to hooker Amy Cokayne, and they were handed a chance to snatch victory in the dying minutes.

However, two lineout drives were repelled by the home team on their tryline and when England knocked on, the 40,000 crowd — a record for a women's rugby match — erupted in noise.

It completed a metamorphosis for New Zealand under veteran former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, who was introduced this year after the Black Ferns were thrashed twice by England a year ago despite being reigning world champions.

Smith had steered the Black Ferns to 11 straight wins but his team were still underdogs against a Red Roses side he labelled one of the best teams in the history of men's or women's rugby.

New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant said her team's turnaround in fortunes was one the country should savour.


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