Semi Finals: Black Ferns reach fourth final
By Duncan Wood
From Twickenham Stoop
New Zealand remain on course for a fourth straight Women's
Rugby World Cup crown after running in seven tries to beat France
45-7 in the first semi final. But who will they face, England or
NEW ZEALAND 45-7 FRANCE
New Zealand produced a clinical performance to comfortably despatch France and duly book their place in the Women's Rugby World Cup final on Sunday.
A 45-7 score line tells its own story but the Black Ferns did have to work hard to gain the ascendancy against a dogged French side who managed the rare distinction of making New Zealand look human in the first quarter.
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France left nothing in the locker and exploited one possible
area of weakness in the Black Ferns armour - defending the rolling
However, once New Zealand took a grip of the game, there was only going to be one winner with the outside backs in particular showing their class throughout.
The Black Ferns were quickly into their stride, their outside backs confident and skilful enough to attack from deep.
Number 8 Casey Robertson was only denied an opening score when she was bundled into touch at the corner whilst Renee Wickliffe's searing break was only halted by a despairing last ditch tackle.
Hohepa opens scoring
France were living dangerously and Carla Hohepa was just too quick and strong on nine minutes when she shrugged off her opposite number before a superb in and out move left the full back stranded and New Zealand had a 5-0 lead.
However, the French settled into the game and pressured New Zealand wherever possible, forcing the Black Ferns into a number of uncharacteristic errors during the first quarter.
But it was the Black Ferns who struck next. Hooker Fiao'o Fa'amausili showed great pace as she broke down the left and France were unable to regroup as the ball was switched wide where Victoria Grant crossed untouched.
A third try quickly followed as Hohepa sliced open the French midfield defence coming in off her wing before finding Huriana Manuel who went in under the posts.
France were hanging on grimly but the penalty count against them was mounting and gaps were starting to appear out wide. It came as no surprise when Renee Wickliffe dived over for the fourth try, swiftly followed by Hohepa's sixth of the tournament.
Salles scores late in half
To their credit, though, France had the final word of the half as powerful work from the pack resulted in a try for Laetitia Salles. Aurélie Bailon converted but France still had a mountain to climb at 31-7.
The French needed the first score but the Black Ferns' 45 year old fly half Anna Richards was next on the scoresheet as she finished off another lovely break from Victoria Grant.
The writing was on the wall for France but they dug deep and kept the Black Ferns at bay until the 66th minute when Joan Sione touched down after a catch and drive.
France continued to battle but couldn't make any impression on the Black Ferns defence and the reigning champions easily closed out the 45-7 win.
POST MATCH REACTION
New Zealand coach Brian Evans: "We thought it was going to be a tough game and really happy with the outcome. It was a hard game to play. We did well in patches and then France kept on coming and coming with that maul. So pretty happy."
On what pleased him most: "It's got to be some of those backs' tries - they were pretty stunning. You'd go a long way in men's or women's rugby to see some tries like that."
On what they will work on for the final: "Probably just the mental part, keeping the pressure on and not loosening up at times. It's tempting when you play like that at times. Balancing out and making sure we retain the ball."
New Zealand captain Melissa Ruscoe: "We had to work hard in our pool games and we knew we were going to have to turn up and work hard against France, and we got there.
"Certainly not [easy despite look of scoreline]. You've only got to look at the girls, they're pretty tired out there, and the French are big and they battled hard for the whole 80 minutes. So we've got some tired bodies and we'll definitely have to rest after tonight."
"We've got pace out wide so the forwards have to set that platform for them so they can do their magic out wide ... and there's nothing better than seeing Carla [Hohepa], Huriana [Manuel] or Renee [Wickliffe] get over the try-line."
New Zealand try scorer Carla Hohepa: "It was awesome, the girls really stuck in and did the good work and it paid off. We were a bit shabby out there today, a few dropped balls and offloads that we should have kept in hand and taken in. Definitely a lot of skill out there by our backs and our forwards.
"We are excited, and I can't take that away from the team at all. For the final we definitely have to step up and improve on those one percents ... We will take England or Australia."
France wing Céline Allainmat: "A very tough game, we knew it would be difficult, we wanted to perform well in defence but we missed a few tackles, but obviously we take some positives.
On why France find it difficult against New Zealand: "We don't know them very well and it would be better if we could play games against them more often. It's very difficult to improve our performance against them because we only play New Zealand every four years."
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