THAT the World Cup final has been described as the best game of women's rugby in history will be limited consolation to England. They lost 25-17 to New Zealand in Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on Sunday night, an enthralling contest that ebbed to and fro before the Black Ferns clinched their third successive title deep into injury time.
Four tries to two tells the story of a New Zealand side infinitely more dangerous in open space, but says nothing of a wonderfully committed England and the inspirational work of players such as Maggie Alphonsi and Sue Day. A converted try by Helen Clayton in the last minute of normal time reduced the deficit to a mere three points, only for New Zealand to work Amiria Marsh into the corner.
"This was certainly the best game of women's rugby I've ever seen," Rosie Williams, the managing director of the RFU for Women, said. But how England must regret their failure to score the points in the first half-hour that their territorial domination suggested were there for the taking.
Their use of Catherine Spencer at close-range scrums became too predictable and they failed to turn New Zealand's defence with tactical kicking. A penalty try, awarded after a series of scrums were collapsed on the New Zealand line, brought England back into the game, but the Black Ferns responded magnificently. "This was a fantastic final for people to watch -I'm just sorry we couldn't deliver," Jo Yapp, the England captain, said Donna Kennedy, Scotland's most-capped player, has retired after her side finished sixth in the tournament. Kennedy, 34, played in 95 of Scotland's 100 matches, the last in a 24-0 defeat by the United States in the fifth-place play-off.
The Times (London, England) (Sept 19, 2006): p78.
England raise the bar in defeat.
ENGLAND'S women may have finished runners-up to New Zealand in the World Cup final for the second time in succession, but yesterday's final in Edmonton is being hailed as the best ever game of women's rugby.
It was certainly the most physical and competitive match in the tournament's history and showcased a level of skill and athleticism not seen before in the women's game.
England, underdogs facing the defending champions, were always playing catch-up but had closed to within three points before New Zealand clinched a 25-17 victory with a late try through Amiria Marsh.
"We worked hard for 80 minutes and did everything we possibly could,'' England captain Jo Yapp said. "It was a tough game and you can't take anything away from the performance of the England girls.''
Despite dominating possession in the first half, England turned around 10-3 down after a try by Monalisa Codling and a conversion and penalty by Emma Jensen, Karen Andrew kicking a penalty for England.
England fell further behind when Stephanie Mortimer scored straight after the break. A penalty try and a touchdown by Helen Clayton closed the score to 20-17, but then Marsh eluded England's desperate cover defence to claim the crucial score.
After the match, centre Sue Day and back-row forwards Clayton and Georgia Stevens announced their retirement from international rugby.
Daily Telegraph (London, England) (Sept 19, 2006