New Zealand wins 34-31 against England in Women’s Rugby World Cup final

ITV News' Katie Cole reports on England's clash with New Zealand in this morning's World Cup final

New Zealand retained the World Cup after snapping England’s 30-match unbeaten run in a thrilling final at Eden Park.

England lost 34-31 in the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Auckland on Saturday morning.

The Black Ferns triumphed despite trailing for most of the match against a Red Roses side who had to dig in for more than an hour with a player down after Lydia Thompson was sent off.

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It was heartbreak for Simon Middleton’s team who threw everything at the tournament hosts, with Amy Cokayne helping herself to three tries.

England head coach Middleton made five changes to the line-up that beat Canada in the semi-final.

Helena Rowland sustained a foot injury in that match and was replaced by Harlequins’ Ellie Kildunne at full-back, while her club-mate Vickii Cornborough was in at loose-head prop following a knee injury to Hannah Botterman.

Holly Aitchison started at inside centre in place of Tatyana Heard and Claudia MacDonald was on the bench with Abby Dow making the switch from right to left wing. Thompson returned on the right. New Zealand made one change. Their hand was forced by injury to Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and she was replaced by Charmaine McMenamin.

After the game, England's Sarah Hunter said she is "gutted", but added that she is "proud of the team".

"We came out fighting, we had our backs against the wall for 60 minutes of that game but we never gave up."

She continued: "One result doesn't define the squad that we are, the people that we are, and hopefully what we've created in terms of where women's rugby has gone."

Hunter added she hopes they "inspired the next generation".

From the start this was a frantic affair and Ellie Kildunne ran in the opening score before Cokayne crossed after a trademark England maul. Both were converted by Emily Scarratt, and the Red Roses were in control early on. The first half was only 18 minutes old when Thompson was sent off for a high tackle on Portia Woodman and Ayesha Leti-I’iga was brought on as a replacement for the injured Black Fern, as Georgia Ponsonby crossed and Renee Holmes kicked the extras.

But if New Zealand thought the tide had turned, Marlie Packer gave them plenty more to think about when she went over after a lineout to stretch England’s lead before Leti-l’iga used the numerical advantage to touch down in acres of space. Holmes again hit her mark.

England's Marlie Packer (right) and New Zealand's Ruahei Demant during the Women's Rugby World Cup final match Credit: PA

Cokayne claimed her second try of the game before Amy Rule found the room to get over and cut the deficit to seven points as the teams went in at the break after a frantic, seven-try opening 40. The second half was only 30 seconds old when the Black Ferns put on a stunning display of their running and passing game with Stacey Fluhler going over. Holmes just missed the kick to tie things up. It was all New Zealand immediately after the break and they led for the first time when Krystal Murray got in from just a few metres out.

Holmes’ missed kick meant the advantage was just three and that was wiped out when Cokayne crossed for the third time after another driving maul from the lineout. There was always a sense that the lead wouldn’t last and with 10 minutes to go Leti-l’iga scored a try worthy of winning a World Cup final. Fitzpatrick’s kick split the English defence and Fluhler gathered before releasing the ball just short of the line for Leti-l’iga to apply the finishing touch.

Ahead of the final England prop Sarah Bern said she was hopeful that the momentum behind women’s rugby can continue in the build-up to a home World Cup in 2025 after a stellar year of women's sport. Before the clash, she said: “We’ve generated so much momentum this year. With our Autumn Series, Sandy Park was sold out a few times, in our Six Nations as well we had a huge sell-out crowd.

England fans ahead of Women's Rugby World Cup final match. Credit: PA

“Even when we played France away, in front of 20,000 people, you can really feel viewing figures are going up. To get so many people watching us on the telly as well has been a gamechanger. “I really hope we can continue that momentum leading into our Six Nations and into the home World Cup. Women’s football really took off with the Euros and they managed to sell out Wembley, so I definitely think it’s a realistic goal for us to sell out Twickenham in the home World Cup.”

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