The Blacks Ferns have downed Women's Rugby World Cup holders England 25-20 in London before a crowd of around 4000, and can largely thank halfback Kendra Cocksedge for the tight victory.

The 2015 World Rugby women's player of the year scored 20 points, including two tries, and kicked two late, vital penalty goals as New Zealand, who led 7-5 at the break, overcame a 17-7 deficit.

The Black Ferns were stunned early by a try to Red Roses wing Fiona Pocock before Renee Wickliffe replied in kind. Further England tries to Harriet Millar-Mills and Lydia Thompson saw England hold a 10-point lead until Cocksedge cranked into action with her second spell double and late decisive goalkicking.

"I thought we were a bit slow to get going, but England really took it to us at the start of that game," said coach Glenn Moore, heaping praise on lock Charmaine Smith and the efforts of young replacement props Aldora Itunu and Aotearoa Mata'u.

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"I think the first half was a little bit dusty. We made a lot of mistakes, and we didn't have much ball, but in the second half we had a lot of ball and showed our attack skills and scored some tries," said Cocksedge.

"I guess with the World Cup coming up next year we'll take any tough wins. It's important to get some game time, and to play against three of the top sides in the world is really important for us."

The Black Ferns now head to Dublin, where they will face Canada in the early hours of Thursday morning (NZT).

Black Ferns 25 (Kendra Cocksedge 2, Renee Wickliffe tries; Cocksedge 2 con, 2 pen)
England 20
(Fiona Pocock, Harriet Millar-Mills, Lydia Thompson tries; Katy Mclean con, Emily Scarratt pen)
HT: 7-5