Rugby Nederland to honour trailblazers on 40th anniversary of first women’s test
Utrecht Rugby Club is set to host a day of celebrations, including seminars and an international between the Netherlands and Belgium, in June.
Australia gave a new-look Black Ferns squad including seven debutants an almighty scare as the World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2022 got off to a terrific start in Tauranga.
Taking to the field after Canada had brushed aside USA 36-5, the match between the Oceania rivals was the proverbial game of two halves with the Wallaroos stunning the home side by taking a 10-0 lead inside the first half an hour.
The Black Ferns were in danger of losing their unbeaten record in the fixture but they showed plenty of composure to turn things around. Having halted Australia's momentum with a try just before half-time, the Black Ferns posted three more tries in the second half to bag themselves a 23-10 bonus-point win.
By the end, the margin could have been more comfortable had Kendra Cocksedge not failed with all four conversion attempts in wet and windy conditions.
Wallaroos fans had dared to dream that a run of 19 straight losses might be coming to an end when prop Liz Patu's converted try and Lori Cramer's penalty put them two scores ahead.
The Wallaroos had the match of the Black Ferns up front, with Grace Hamilton continuing her fine form in the back row, and their tenacity in defence caused the Blacks Ferns problems.
However, the world's number two team finally managed to find a way through the gold line of defenders in the 32nd minute when winger Ayesha Leti-I’iga went over in the corner.
A change of front-row at half-time significantly improved the Black Ferns' fortunes and having established a solid platform to play off, they profited by scoring three more tries without conceding any points at the other end.
Blindside flanker Alana Bremner was followed over by outstanding debutant Kaipo Olsen-Baker before Cocksedge, on the occasion of her record 58th cap for the Black Ferns, set up Leti-I’iga for her second with some nice handling.
For the Black Ferns, there will be some relief that they have managed to get back on the winning trail after suffering record losses to England and France in Europe in November, while Australia will be left to rue what might have been.
That said, the Wallaroos have proved they will be competitive for the August O’Reilly Cup series and the Rugby World Cup 2021 opener against the Black Ferns, on 8 October.
“We’ll take a lot of confidence from matching it with them for 60 minutes in what were typical NZ rugby conditions that we don't experience that often in Australia,” Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry said.
“A bit of fatigue did set in but if we can match it for 60, we should be able to match them for 80 minutes-plus.
“These are all stepping stones to where we want to get to as a team at the World Cup at the end of the year."
The first match of the day went very much to form with Canada confirming their recent dominance over Rugby World Cup 2021 Pool B opponents USA.
The wet conditions made handling difficult and it was the Canadian pack that took a grip on proceedings, led by captain and number eight Sophie de Goede.
Olivia DeMerchant's early try for Canada was matched by the USA when Hallie Taufoou crossed in the corner but from that point onwards it was an uphill battle for the Women's Eagles.
DeMarchant got her second as the half-hour mark approached before Pamphinette Buisa added another from close range to send the Canadians into a 17-5 half-time lead.
Within the space of three second-half minutes, Canada had put the result firmly to bed with two more tries. Courtney Holtkamp got another for the forwards in the 49th minute and then Buisa got her second, this time from halfway after a loose pass was picked up and ruthlessly punished.
USA managed to quell the storm thereafter and it was two minutes from time before Canada scored again, half-back Taylor Perry finishing off a rare free-flowing move.
The World Rugby Pacific Four Series continues on Sunday, 12 June. USA take on Australia as both sides look for their first win in the opening match of the day, while Canada play New Zealand in what should be an equally tight encounter in the second fixture.