Gregor Paul in Sydney
Black Ferns 31
Given the standards the Black Ferns set themselves, they won't be overly happy with their performance in Sydney.
The result, yes. Their effort and willingness to work for one another, yes. But their accuracy and cohesion, not so much.
They would acknowledge that the Wallaroos made them work hard and look to be a different team to the one they were last year.
There were no easy tries; no easy ways for the Black Ferns to get out of jail if their skill was lacking or decision-making wasn't sharp enough.
And that was the problem for the Ferns – their accuracy was lacking on attack. They didn't have too many problems opening up the Wallaroos, but they weren't so good at finishing what they started. Their passing lacked a sharpness. But more noticeable was their lack of urgency and confidence when there was space to exploit.
There was a strange reticence to back themselves, to hit the holes hard and keep asking questions. That could have been lack of game time together.
It could have been the introduction of a handful of new players or it could have been an inevitable consequence of this being the first test of the year.
Regardless, they will need to look at ways to fix it ahead of the Eden Park return encounter. They will need to look at how they can be more effective without relying so heavily on the driving maul.
That was their trump card and without it, the score would have been a lot closer. But the Ferns had the smarts to realise that when they drove from clean lineout ball, the Wallaroos had no answers.
It was impressive not just for the organisation, but also for the body positions and dynamism and it was the driving maul that netted them the critical tries in the second half to push far enough ahead to put the game out of sight.
And they needed those tries because the Wallaroos didn't give up or wilt the way they did last year and that was perhaps the most important feature of the night.
The way the Wallaroos dug in and competed highlighted how much the women's rugby landscape is changing. The Australians looked fitter, stronger, faster and better organised than they were 12 months ago and potentially, if they make the same improvements in the next 12 months, the gap between them and the Black Ferns will maybe disappear.