England suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the Women’s Rugby World Cup final to New Zealand despite an admirable battle in a grueling and thrilling competition in Auckland that was held to the wire.
The Red Roses saw Lydia Thompson sent off for a head-on collision with Portia Woodman after a furious start to a thrilling showpiece on Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd of 42,579 at Eden Park – a record attendance for women’s rugby – which saw involved five tries in just the first 24 minutes.
England still led 26-19 at half-time despite being shorthanded, with Harlequins hooker Amy Cokayne’s hat-trick later restoring their lead after the formidable Black Ferns took the lead through scoring from Stacey Fluhler and Krystal Murray.
A yellow card for New Zealand substitute flanker Kennedy Simon for a hit on Abby Dow leveled the numbers for the biting final 15 minutes, but Simon Middleton’s side couldn’t hold on as the winger Ayesha Leti-l’iga crossed after a fine kick and Fluhler offloaded for the decisive score of the night.
England pressed until the very end with two five-yard lineouts in the dying seconds instead of potentially shooting three points from range to level the score, but again could not break the home defense as defending champions New Zealand triumphed 34-31 to claim their sixth title on home soil.
It was the Red Roses’ first Test defeat since July 2019, ending an incredible 30-match Test winning streak.
“I’m disgusted,” England captain Sarah Hunter said. “So proud of the team, we fought. We had our backs against the wall for 60 minutes but we never gave up. A result doesn’t define the team we are, the people we are. I hope we have inspired the next generation at home and given them something to be proud of.
“The sport is cruel. Thanks to New Zealand, they have found a way and they are going home as deserved champions. We didn’t neglect anything, we left everything on the pitch. We are suffering.