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Black Ferns edge nail-biting semi-final against France
Caroline Drouin missed a late penalty as the Black Ferns held on to win a tight semi-final 25-24.
New Zealand held on to book a fifth Rugby World Cup final meeting with England, winning an intense semi-final 25-24 against France.
The Black Ferns, who first trailed Les Bleues in the fifth minute, took the lead in the 57th and did not relinquish it, although Caroline Drouin had a late chance to win it for France.
Drouin’s last-minute penalty drifted wide of the lefthand upright and the Black Ferns were able to regain possession and run down the clock. It means their quest for a sixth Rugby World Cup title continues.
New Zealand have played England in four previous Rugby World Cup finals and have won them all.
The majority of the fans packed inside Eden Park had arrived in hope of a home win, but it was France who started on the front foot.
New Zealand withstood multiple phases of early French pressure on their own line, however, they conceded a penalty in doing so and Drouin sent it through the posts to give Les Bleues a 3-0 lead.
France stretched their adavantage to 10 points in the 23rd minute as Romane Ménager powered over to score the first try of the match and Drouin added the conversion.
The Black Ferns, of course, had been forced to come from behind in their opening match against Australia at Eden Park, and they got on the scoreboard with a Renee Holmes penalty.
The hosts were growing into the match and after being held up over the line for a second time, Drouin kicked the resulting goal-line drop-out straight into touch.
That gave the Black Ferns a scrum, from which they won a free kick that was tapped quickly by Kendra Cocksedge, who combined with Ruahei Demant to put Stacey Fluhler in enough space to score. Holmes’ conversion levelled the score at 10-10.
However, if anyone expected that to shift the momentum decisively then they were disappointed as Les Bleues went up the other end and restored their seven-point advantage.
It was centre Gabrielle Vernier who supplied the finishing touch, picking a devastating line to score next to the posts. Drouin’s conversion made the score 17-10 at half-time.
The Black Ferns again found a way back into the contest at the beginning of the second half, as Ruby Tui raced onto a Holmes grubber kick, beating the French defender and touching down just before the dead ball line.
Holmes missed the conversion and a penalty soon after that would have given the home side the lead, but New Zealand did hit the front with a little under 24 minutes remaining.
Following an impressive drive from the Black Ferns forwards it was centre Theresa Fitzpatrick who provided the scoring touch. Demant converted and five minutes later, added a penalty to give the hosts a 25-17 lead.
Again, though, France refused to give in and narrowed the deficit to a solitary point as Ménager scored her second try of the match.
Les Bleues were reduced to 14 players with a little under 11 minutes left at Eden Park as Safi N’Diaye was shown a yellow card.
When Black Ferns replacement prop Santo Taumato was sin-binned late on it gave Drouin the opportunity to claim victory, but her kick sailed wide.