Black Ferns 45
The Black Ferns have done it again – smashing the Wallaroos 45-17 at Eden Park in a performance which once again began with their superior grunt up front.
The Australians defended far better than they did in their defeat last weekend at ANZ Stadium, but, while there was less space in the wide channels for the Kiwis to operate in, they simply turned to their pack to lay the foundation.
Their first three of their seven tries in total came via the pack and all were mauling types from close to the line: front rowers Aldora Itunu and Phillipa Love plus lock Eloise Blackwell the beneficiaries. The powerful Love could have got a second in the second half but dropped the ball over the line in contact.
That forward dominance again enabled the world champion Black Ferns to take a firm grip on the game, just like it did in Sydney where they wrapped up the Laurie O'Reilly trophy for another year.
They were rarely troubled, although that wasn't to say they didn't have uncomfortable moments. Probably the most significant was the injury to the head or neck of try-scoring prop Itunu late in the second half which held up play for more than five minutes before she was taken from the pitch.
Wallaroos No10 Trileen Pomare, the scorer of her team's first try, was probably the best player in gold on the pitch but she didn't get the platform with which to operate to her potential. The same applied to talented but under-used fullback Mahalia Murphy.
The Australians' defensive pressure in the first half meant the Black Ferns needed a big game from their experienced halfback Kendra Cocksedge, and she delivered, quite literally, through her impeccable pass.
Inspirational hooker and skipper Fiao'o Faamausili was the star for the Black Ferns in Sydney but this time Cocksedge took centre stage. The 30-year-old, the second most experienced player in her side with 43 caps behind skipper Faamausili's 53, kicked five conversions and was just as accurate with her kicking in open play.
She controlled her team's point of attack and her try from an attacking scrum via a perfect planned move was apt reward for her efforts.
By this stage the Wallaroos' defensive efforts had taken its toll and crucial too was the yellow card to goalkicking prop Emily Robinson for a ruck offence too many for referee Ian Tempest.
The game opened up at this point and the outside backs took full advantage. Wing Renee Wickliffe's acrobatics to stay in while putting the ball down in the corner were spectacular and vice-captain and fullback Selica Winiata finally got the space she wanted and the speedster didn't disappoint either.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the match from a Black Ferns perspective was the relatively low numbers in the crowd, a sellout for the following All Blacks v Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test.
The ground was still half empty on fulltime, only 45 minutes before the kick-off for the men's match.
Black Ferns 45 (Aldora Itunu, Phillipa Love, Eloise Blackwell, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Kendra Cocksedge, Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata tries; Cocksedge 5 cons)
Wallaroos 17 (Trileen Pomare, Liz Patu, Hana Ngaha tries; Fenella Hake con)