First blood to Ferns in test series

Can a test team disappear into isolation for four years, give up many of its leading players to sevens, and still return as a World Cup contender? The jury is still out after Australia’s return to the test scene resulted in a 38-3 defeat in Rotorua today (1st June)

Published by John Birch, June 1st, 2014

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First blood to Ferns in test series

With 12 players making their test debut Australia began well, frustrating New Zealand at the breakdown and winning an early penalty, which Ashleigh Hewson converted to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.

It did not last long, however, with the referee penalising the Wallaroos minutes later giving Kendra Cocksedge an opportunity to level the scores.

Overall these opening exchanges were scrappy with both teams looking decidedly rusty – this was, after all, also New Zealand's first test since beating England 3-0 in last year’s series. Constant infringements at the breakdown prevented any sort of flowing play developing, and midway through the first half the referee finally lost her patience, sending Australia’s prop Oneata Schwalger to the bin.

It was a decisive moment. Within minutes New Zealand were ahead, winning an Australian lineout near their own line, and executing a good move to put Amiria Rule in at the corner. Although the conversion was missed, with Victoria Subritzy-Nafatali looking solid at fly-half another penalty soon followed with Cocksedge extending the lead to 11-3.

Back to full strength Australia staged a counter-attack and came close to a try at the end of the half, the referee ruling that they were held up, the score remaining at 11-3 at the break.

New Zealand began the second half in a more positive frame of mind, and Cocksedge soon had another opportunity to extend the lead as the Wallaroos were again penalised at the breakdown. A great chase by Selicia Winiata then forced an Australia turnover in a dangerous position, allowing Rawina Everitt in for a second New Zealand try, this time converted.

With the penalty count mounting, the Ferns were now in command. Honey Hireme was denied what looked a certain try, held up by Australia’s Rebeca Smyth, but the ball was recycled wide for Winiata to go over.

Another yellow card – this time for Alisha Hewett – largely finished Australia reistance. Hireme soon made up for missing the earlier try, before finally Huriana Manuel finished the night to give New Zealand a 38-3 victory.

Although disappointed to lose, Australian Head Coach Paul Verrell thought the Wallaroos would take a lot from this experience.

“We really came out with great intent in the first half and I think New Zealand was stunned by our commitment to defence. I was impressed with our commitment to the breakdown, however there are a number of structural elements of our game we need to work and improve on before we play Canada.

“The spirit of this Wallaroos squad cannot be questioned as they really gave New Zealand a lot to think about and forced them to earn that win.”