Rugby: Black Ferns wrap up season in style

By Campbell Burnes

Fullback Selica Winiata. Photosport
Fullback Selica Winiata. Photosport

Black Ferns 38 Ireland 8

The Black Ferns have emerged unbeaten from their northern tour and look in solid shape as they eye up 2017, Women's Rugby World Cup year.

They put away Ireland 38-8 with a strong second half, in which they ran in five tries, via a Portia Woodman hat-trick and a double to sparky fullback Selica Winiata. That 40 minutes represented the best attacking rugby the Black Ferns have shown since the 67-3 shellacking of the Wallaroos at Eden Park last month.

The match also would have given satisfaction to a clutch of players who were part of the upset defeat to Ireland at the 2014 World Cup, a result which condemned them to fifth, the first time they had not lifted the trophy.

But they had to work hard here in the first stanza in Dublin. After No 8 Angie Sisifa set up Winiata for the opening score in the sixth minute, the Black Ferns could not shake the tenacious hosts, who offered little in attack, but competed well in the collisions.

It was 5-3 at the break in a stop-start affair.

Winiata's second was the result of a concerted build-up and nice passing. She may have had a third, but, after a scything break, was lowered in a copybook grassing tackle by Ireland centre Sene Naoupu, wife of current Harlequins and former Canterbury loose forward George Naoupu.

Woodman was her usual self at centre, punishing without the ball and electric with it, her second try a superb long-range solo effort.

The final try went to No 10 Kelly Brazier, who showed all her fancy footwork after a bullocking charge from young replacement prop Aotearoa Mata'u.

Ireland scored a fine consolation try in the 82nd minute to replacement back Niamh Kavanagh.

Standouts for the Black Ferns were Woodman, Winiata and halfback Kendra Cocksedge, around whom so much of their play is built, and blindside flanker Charmaine Smith, who was prominent in the lineouts, mauls and around the field, while Mata'u offered maximum impact off the bench.

The Black Ferns also won tight victories over England and Canada on the tour, and the three tests in eight days acts as perfect preparation for next August's World Cup, in which there will again be a tight schedule. The UCD Bowl, venue for this morning's international, will be one of the stadia used at the World Cup.

Woodman and Brazier will now fly to Dubai to link up with the Black Ferns Sevens, who open their World Series campaign on Thursday night (NZT).

The Black Ferns will next play in June, in an intense lead-up programme that is yet to be announced by New Zealand Rugby.

Black Ferns 38 (Portia Woodman 3, Selica Winiata 2, Kelly Brazier tries; Kendra Cocksedge 3 con, Hazel Tubic con) Ireland 8 (Niamh Kavanagh try; Nora Stapleton pen)
HT: 5-3

- NZ Herald

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