Black Ferns look for improvement despite smashing Wallaroos

By Campbell Burnes

Despite beating the Wallaroos 67-3 on Saturday afternoon, the Black Ferns are still looking to improve with tomorrow night's re-match. Photo / Photosport
Despite beating the Wallaroos 67-3 on Saturday afternoon, the Black Ferns are still looking to improve with tomorrow night's re-match. Photo / Photosport

The Black Ferns know they have the measure of the Wallaroos, so tomorrow's second test in Albany will be all about performance, rather than scoreline.

The 67-3 demolition job on Australia on Saturday at Eden Park saw the Ferns run in 11 tries, but the most impressive feature was that they shook off the rust after only about 15 minutes and three days together to impose their game on their opponents.

In doing so, they have retained the Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy.

"Performance is the focus every time we train. It's about getting the ultimate performance and we've talked about it being better than the last one," says coach Glenn Moore.

On the basis, watch out Wallaroos.

However, while it was a solid display at Eden Park, it was far from perfect.

"We were pleased in most parts, but there were also a number of things that let us down, particularly around ball retention," Moore says.

There are three changes, to the side, the versatile Kelly Brazier starting her first test at No 10 since the 2014 World Cup, in place of Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, who was rested due to a tight hamstring, Charmaine McMenamin comes into blindside flanker in place of Rawinia Everitt, and Toka Natua starts at loosehead after Pip Love damaged her knee.

Portia Woodman will again have a run at centre, while Sarah Goss plays her second test in the No 7 jersey.

"That was the first time Portia has played at 13 and we were very pleased with her. She had good physical presence, tackled well and was strong over the ball. Sarah is learning the game at seven and I thought her overall game was very good," says Moore.

Chelsea Alley, who was bracketed with Janna Vaughan, ran freely at this afternoon's captain's run, so she will take her usual place at No 12, while wing Carla Hohepa returns via the bench. She scored the decisive try of the 2010 World Cup final, the fourth, and last, the Black Ferns have claimed.

Hohepa's presence adds to the potent firepower of the outside backs, where fullback Selica Winiata helped herself to four tries on Saturday.

"There's something about that park. I scored five there against Samoa (in 2014)," says Winiata, a Palmerston North policewoman who now has 21 tries from 20 tests.

She is one of the latest in a long line of prolific outside backs to have graced the Black Ferns jersey. That number includes Tammi Wilson, Hannah Myers (now Porter, the Ferns campaign manager), Dianne Kahura, Louisa Wall, Vanessa Cootes, Hohepa and now Renee Wickliffe, Honey Hireme and Portia Woodman.

"When you look at our team on paper, there is a lot of firepower. It's about making the correct decisions, because everyone is a threat in the backline," says Winiata.

She and Moore are expecting a much stiffer Australian challenge tomorrow.

"I'd expect they'll be disappointed after that scoreline, so they'll come out with a lot of vigour," says Moore.

Australia have made six changes, mostly in the back-row and the backline, as they seek to stem the flow of points from the Blacks Ferns, who were hard to peg once play went beyond three to four phases. Their 12 debutantes should be better for the experience.

Coach Paul Verrell has made a complete reshuffle of the Wallaroos back-row, with the in-form Mollie Gray moving to No 8 and Ariana Kaiwai and Grace Hamilton being promoted from the bench after impressing on their debuts.

In the backs, Sarah Riordan moves from fullback to No 12 with Katrina Barker playing at centre. Chloe Leaupepe will make her debut for Australia at fullback.

"We are very disappointed with many facets of our game on Saturday, but we have owned up to our mistakes and have to move on to raise our standards," said Verrell.

"This Wednesday is a big game for us to restore some pride in the Wallaroos jersey and for several players to show what they can do, less than a year out from the Women's Rugby World Cup. We have started a long journey to be at the standard that we want to play at and we must continue to make inroads starting with this second test against the Black Ferns."

Entry to QBE Stadium is free for this international, which will be televised on SKY Sport 1.

New Zealand: Selica Winiata, Honey Hireme, Portia Woodman, Chelsea Alley, Renee Wickliffe, Kelly Brazier, Kendra Cocksedge, Aroha Savage, Sarah Goss, Charmaine McMenamin, Charmaine Smith, Eloise Blackwell, Aleisha Nelson, Fiao'o Fa'amausili (c), Toka Natua; Reserves: Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Aldora Itunu, Aotearoa Matau, Charlene Gubb, Angie Sisifa, Kristina Sue, Carla Hohepa, Hazel Tubic

Australia: Chloe Leaupepe, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Katrina Barker, Sarah Riordan, Madeline Putz, Ashleigh Hewson (c), Iliseva Batibasaga, Mollie Gray, Arana Kaiwai, Grace Hamilton, Chloe Butler, Alisha Hewett, Hanna Ngaha, Alanna Patison, Louise Burrows; Reserves: Ivy Kaleta, Emily Robinson, Danielle Meskell, Michelle Bailey, Liz Patu, Kirby Sefo, Nareta Marsters, Cheyenne Campbell

- NZ Herald

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