Black Ferns beat England to create Rugby World Cup history
New Zealand became the first host nation to win a women’s Rugby World Cup as they beat England 34-31 at a sold-out Eden Park.
England played with 14 players for 63 minutes in Auckland after Lydia Thompson was red-carded for a head-on-head collision with Portia Woodman.
The Red Roses were leading 14-0 at that time and were in front as late as the 72nd minute, when Ayesha Leti-I’iga scored her second try of the match to ultimately claim glory.
Victory secured the Black Ferns their sixth Rugby World Cup title and means they have now beaten England in the final five times.
England were forced into a late change when Leanne Infante failed a late fitness test on an ankle and knee issue, with Lucy Packer drafted in to start at scrum-half.
It seemed to make little difference in the early exchanges as the Red Roses scored the first try of the match, Ellie Kildunne finishing off a team move to score in the right corner in the third minute.
Renee Holmes missed an opportunity to get the hosts on the scoreboard as her penalty drifted wide, and England soon extended their lead to two converted tries.
The Red Roses forward pack had to be patient with their 13th-minute lineout drive, but the Black Ferns were only able to slow it rather than stop it and Amy Cokayne eventually emerged with her first try of the final.
Emily Scarratt converted to give England a 14-0 lead but their hopes of glory suffered a dent a couple of minutes later as Thompson was shown a red card following a collision that forced Portia Woodman off injured.
The Black Ferns kicked the penalty to the corner, and they gave England a dose of their own medicine as they drove the resulting lineout over the line, Georgia Ponsonby coming up with the ball.
Holmes added the conversion but Maiakawanakaulani Roos fumbled the restart into touch, giving the Red Roses and Marlie Packer the opportunity to drive over for their third try of the match.
The final had become an end-to-end affair and an Abbie Ward mistake from the restart gave New Zealand a lineout. The hosts’ drive was slowed, but the ball was spread to the left wing where Leti-I’iga touched down.
Holmes again converted to narrow the deficit to five points and with less than 10 minutes of the half remaining the Black Ferns full-back thought she had gone the length of the pitch to score following an interception.
Referee Hollie Davidson was playing an advantage, however, and from the lineout, Cokayne notched her second try of the match.
New Zealand did breach the try-line for a third time on the stroke of half-time as Amy Rule profited from a driving maul to make the score 26-19 at the break.
The hosts started the second half as they had ended the first, Stacey Fluhler making a scintillating break from the restart, before exchanging passes with Holmes and touching down.
Holmes missed the conversion that would have levelled the scores, but the Black Ferns had to wait less than seven minutes to add another try, as replacement prop Krystal Murray went over in the left corner.
Again, the conversion was missed, which meant England regained the lead in the 54th minute when Cokayne went over for her hat-trick try.
The flow of the match slowed somewhat, on the scoreboard at least, after that until Black Ferns co-captain Kennedy Simon was sent to the sin-bin.
But any thoughts that would favour England were extinguished in the 72nd minute as Leti-I’iga finished following a stunning offload from Fluhler. The hosts held on to win, repelling a late Red Roses lineout to regain possession and win a scrum that signalled full-time.
New Zealand's sixth title from six Rugby World Cup finals also ended England's remarkable 30-test winning run that dated back to a loss to the Black Ferns in July 2019.