New Zealand 57
SCOTLAND knew they would need a miracle to pull off the win that would give them the chance of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals. And they knew within two minutes of kick-off at the Northland Events Centre that a miracle was not about to materialise.
The Black Ferns got their opening score with 99 seconds and were 45-0 up at the break. The second half was mediocre by the hosts’ standards as they only added two more touchdowns to take their final tally to nine, but that was partly down to a far more assertive display by a Scotland team who at the break had been facing up to the prospect of a record defeat.
New Zealand had already reached the last eight thanks to two previous wins in Pool A, and had rested their two leading try-scorers, Portia Woodman and Ruby Tui, for the game in Whangarei. But those who were on the field had places in the knockout matches to fight for, and showed just how seriously they were taking this game by going on a high-tempo offensive right from kick-off.
Full-back Renee Holmes was the scorer of that first try, touching down in the left corner thanks to an overlap opened up by a midfield loop. Ayesha Leti-I’iga got the second after being left in acres of space on her, and then from the restart openside Sarah Hirini broke free in midfield to get her team’s third. Holmes, who had missed her first two conversion attempts, was on target this time.
The try bonus point came from a penalty to touch in the Scots 22. The initial drive got nowhere, but when the ball was recycled No 8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u ploughed over from close range.
Scotland enjoyed some possession at last midway through the half, but their first attack was quickly snuffed out and their second, after making decent progress, was turned over at the breakdown. Back on the attack, the Black Ferns again employed the power of their forwards to punch holes in the Scots defence, and Theresa Fitzpatrick claimed their fifth try after an excellent carry and scoring pass from Alana Bremner.
Holmes added the two points, then did so again when Renee Wickliffe was awarded a sixth try despite an obvious forward pass from Hazel Tubic. It was all too easy for New Zealand, as they showed in the last minute before the break by scoring off first phase from a scrum, with Wickliffe finishing off in the right corner after a simple move down the line. Holmes converted again, and Scotland went in at the break wondering what they could do in the second half to keep the score even mildly respectable.
They enjoyed some pressure early in the second half, and after a penalty was sent to touch Lisa Thomson got to within five metres of the opposition line before being shut down. Then Shona Campbell briefly threatened to open up the defence with a run which evaded several defenders before she too was brought to a halt.
Scotland’s defensive effort was also more sure-footed after the break, while the tempo of the home attack was disrupted somewhat by a rash of substitutions. When the first score of the second half did come, however, it went New Zealand’s way, with Maiakawanakaulani Roos finishing off from a Natalie Delamare offload. Holmes converted.
Inside the final quarter, the Black Ferns’ frustrations were evidenced by a growing penalty count, and eventually substitute prop Tanya Kalounivale was shown the yellow card for the repeated offences. The 14 women more than held their own, however, and Holmes got her second try – unconverted this time – after a break by substitute Sylvia Brunt break to within the five-metre line.
It was a match which showed Scotland how far they need to improve to take on the best in the world, but realistically, for all that the team will carry out their usual review of what went right and wrong, it was largely irrelevant. The real frustrations will be the earlier defeats by Wales and Australia, by three points and two points respectively.
Those close results show that Scotland can compete with the teams that are nearer to them in the world rankings. If they had won either, instead of getting a losing bonus point in both, they could be preparing for a quarter-final rather than heading home.
New Zealand: Tries: Holmes 2, Leti-I’iga, Hirini, Mikaele-Tu’u, Fitzpatrick, Wickliffe 2, Roos. Cons: Holmes 6.
Scoring sequence (New Zealand first): 5-0, 10-0, 15-0, 17-0, 22-0, 24-0, 29-0, 31-0, 36-0, 38-0, 43-0, 45-0 half-time, 50-0, 52-0, 57-0.
Yellow card: New Zealand: Kalounivale 64.
New Zealand: R Holmes; R Wickliffe, A du Plessis, T Fitzpatrick, A Leti-I’iga (S Brunt 48); H Tubic, A Marino-Tauhinu (capt; S Cocksedge 46); P Love (K Murray 46), G Ponsonby (N Delamare 46), A Rule (T Kalounivale 55), J Ngan-Woo (C Bremner 55), M Roos, A Bremner (K Reynolds 60), S Hirini, L Mikaele-Tu’u. Unused substitute: R Demant.
Scotland: S Campbell; R Lloyd (E Musgrove 64), E Orr, L Thomson, H Smith; H Nelson (M Smith 67), C Mattinson (M McDonald 57); M Wright (L Bartlett 64), L Skeldon, C Belisle (K Dougan 55), E Wassell, S Bonar (L O’Donnell 70), R Malcolm (capt; J Rettie 69), R McLachlan (L McMillan 64), J Konkel-Roberts.
Referee: Aurelie Groizeleau (France).