Australia shocked France only a week after Les Bleus had beaten the Ferns the week before with a win that gives them the Utrecht Shield for the first time. New Zealand overwhelmed Wales to set up a tournament decider with England next weekend
Forsyth Barr Stadium played host to a thrilling Saturday of WXV 1 action in which Eva Karpani helped Australia overcome France after Ruby Tui's four tries secured a big Black Ferns win over Wales.
With hosts New Zealand set to face England in Auckland next weekend, the Wallaroos' impressive 29-20 victory against Les Bleues has opened up the title race in the top level.
Australia's win came after Tui and Mererangi Paul had combined for seven of the Black Ferns' 12 tries in their 70-7 defeat of Wales.
AUSTRALIA 29-20 FRANCE
Australia stunned France in Dunedin, with prop Eva Karpani scoring a hat-trick to secure a deserved 29-20 victory.
It was the underdog Wallaroos who broke the game open after only four minutes, scoring a well-worked try that started with a nice break by Georgina Friedrichs.
She smartly passed to Layne Morgan and even though the ball went to ground, Friedrichs wrapped around and got the ball to a storming Karpani to score under the posts.
Carys Dallinger’s conversion shot the Wallaroos out to an early lead, which stung France into action. A wayward kick was returned up the touchline by Marine Ménager. Her weaving run opened up a clear run in for Emilie Boulard to touch down and lock up the scores.
But the Wallaroos wouldn’t lie down. Friedrichs was again the architect of an excellent try, starting it with a break that saw Emily Chancellor hauled down 10 metres short of the line.
After a couple of patient phases, Friedrichs cut back past her defender to score and hand Australia back the lead despite Dallinger’s conversion drifting wide.
From there the game settled into a bit of an arm wrestle, with France having to battle well past the half-hour mark to get back into the Australian 22.
Committed defence kept the French from crossing the try-line, but couldn’t stop them conceding a penalty within Morgane Bourgeois’ range. The full-back nailed the kick to make the score 12-10, which held till the break despite a late raid by the Wallaroos.
France were handed perfect field position to start the second half, launching a series of lineout drives in the 22. However, the Australian defence was up to the task, eventually forcing a turnover that they worked well out of danger.
So, it was fitting that they were the next ones to score. Morgan harassed her French opposite number Alexandra Chambon into spilling the ball, with the Wallaroos scrum-half darting away to set up position in the 22.
From there they again patiently probed away, before the outstanding Karpani used her strength to crash over for her second. Dallinger’s conversion made it a crucial two-score lead, by that stage the belief was evident all across the Australian team.
It extended to the defensive effort too, with Chancellor gaining a heroic turnover in her own 22 when it looked like the French attack was starting to fire.
More Australian pressure and a great run by Karpani again saw the Australians hard on attack, this time France conceded a penalty on their 22. Arabella McKenzie took over the kicking duties from the substituted Dallinger, extending the lead to 22-10 and making the mountain France had to climb just that bit steeper.
But the decisive blow came with 10 minutes to play. More efficient game management saw the Australians once again set up camp in the French 22, carefully setting up room for Karpani to score her third.
Fittingly, she was taken over the line by a host of team-mates, who erupted in joy as it became evident that they were about to pull off arguably the greatest result in the side’s history.
There was time for some late drama, Élisa Riffonneau and Gabrielle Vernier scoring unconverted tries to close the gap, but the Australians had put enough space on the scoreboard to render them academic.
NEW ZEALAND 70-7 WALES
Regular transmission resumed for world champions New Zealand, who have put on a stunning display to beat Wales 70-7 in their second round WXV 1 match in Dunedin. Superstar Ruby Tui lived up to her billing, scoring four first half tries.
The Black Ferns were clearly in a mood to make up for last weekend’s loss to France, in which their much-vaunted attack failed to fire. After a good period of attack by Wales was repulsed, Mererangi Paul was on the end of a slick backline move that saw Tui wrap around and deliver the last pass.
From then on, Tui was only catching the ball on the way to the try line. Straight from the kickoff Chelsea Bremner had a strong carry that led to a Sylvia Brunt break, then a cross kick from Ruahei Demant was taken by Tui to step over to score.
To make matters harder for Wales, wing Nel Metcalfe was shown a yellow card for a hair pull on Paul in the lead up.
New Zealand made the extra player count, Tui cashed in on the automatic overlap to score her second minutes later. Still with the one player advantage, a generous pass from du Plessis gave Tui her third and easiest try.
However, her fourth showcased the sort of footwork that made Tui a household name. Fantastic interplay from Amy Rule and Georgia Ponsonby created space for her to put on a stutter step and race away to score, delighting the Forsyth Barr Stadium crowd.
Remarkably, the quartet of tries took place in the space of only 13 minutes.
The second half opened wit a Defence as good as the attack, stopping a Welsh lineout drive in its tracks and turning the ball over, then drawing a penalty from another attacking lineout before halftime.
Tui was line in for a fifth as the hooter sounded when she was wide open outside Renee Holmes, but Holmes’ pass went straight into the grasp of Carys Williams-Morris.
The second half started with a slick offload Brunt to Demant, which saw du Plessis smash her way over from close range. Paul got her second, off a courage line up the middle from a Demant inside ball.
Wales fought back hard, gaining a long period of possession that saw Abbie Fleming power over for their only try.
Tui left the field after an hour but her replacement Katelyn Vahaakolo simply picked up where Tui had left off, scoring almost immediately. Fellow replacement Lucy Jenkins scored a popular double in front of her hometown crowd after a very busy shift at the breakdown, firstly racing 30 metres to score off a turnover.
A break by Iritana Hohaia led to Jenkins’ second, with New Zealand’s commitment to spreading the ball wide lasting from start to finish. Paul wrapped up proceedings with her third as time expired, diving into the corner and making the score 70-7.
It’s exactly what New Zealand’s WXV 1 campaign needed, as they now head to Auckland to potentially play off against England for the title.