Black Ferns 37
The Black Ferns have kept their perfect record against the Wallaroos and retained the Laurie O'Reilly Trophy at Eden Park tonight.
In the first match of the transtasman double-header, this was a more challenging encounter for the world champions than last week's under a clear blue sky in Perth. Then the Wallaroos were guilty of missing far too many tackles and it turned into a 47-10 romp.
This time they were better defensively and initially posed a few attacking questions of their own. But they again lacked the quality and instincts possessed by the Black Ferns and the match as a contest was over early in the second half.
The Black Ferns scored five tries to the Wallaroos' one, and with halfback Kendra Cocksedge in good kicking form the visitors needed something special to overturn their scoreboard disadvantage and beat the Kiwis for the first time in 19 attempts.
Black Ferns first-five Ruahei Dumant was over virtually untouched after four minutes, but the Wallaroos replied nearly straight away with a stunning score by right wing Mahalia Murphy, who pushed off Selica Winiata and Ayesha Leti-l'iga to put the visitors on near even terms.
It was a display of their fighting spirit and the game was not without niggle. Referee Aimee Barrett-Theron spoke to both captains as tempers flared early in the first half and the breakdown was fiercely contested and occasionally a free-for-all.
With the Black Ferns excelling in the set pieces – they put the skids under the Wallaroos scrum at times – they gradually assumed control. Lock Eloise Blackwell was over by the posts after an inside pass from the excellent Charmaine McMenamin for a converted try and they had a good 17-8 lead at the break.
A decisive run by second-five Chelsea Alley and a quick penalty tap by Cocksedge led to Carla Hohepa going over for another converted try, with McMenamin scoring a deserved try near the posts and lock Charmaine Smith scoring after the final hooter.
The final quarter was memorable for the debut of Black Ferns outside back Grace Brooker, who featured in several strong runs and had a night to remember, as did all her teammates. Laurie O'Reilly Memorial Trophy retained after the disappointment of losing to France last month, that's their international season over for the year.
Black Ferns 37 (Ruahei Dumant, Eloise Blackwell, Carla Hohepa, Charmaine McMenamin, Charmaine Smith tries; Kendra Cocksedge 2 cons, 2 pens, Chelsea Alley con)
Wallaroos 8 (Mahalia Murphy try; Lori Cramer pen)