Categories: SportsSports

Kiwis snap 30 game streak to win World Cup

Through Sam Worthington with AP

New Zealand broke England’s record of 30 wins in a row, claiming a pulse-pounding Rugby World Cup final 34-31 in front of a raucous, sold-out Eden Park crowd.

Defending champion Black Ferns was humiliated by England and France on last year’s European tour, but new coach Wayne Smith made an incredible turnaround.

It looked like England would clinch victory in the last minute via their dominant lineout maul, but Kiwi Lock Joanah Ngan-Woo stole the pitch, leaving 42,579 mostly home fans in delirium.

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Ayesha Leti-I’iga from New Zealand celebrates scoring a try. (Getty)

England winger Lydia Thompson was sent off in the 18th minute for a sickening head-on collision that knocked out New Zealand superstar Portia Woodman.

“It’s clear to me, she comes across quickly, it’s a reckless move, so it’s a red card for me,” said referee Hollie Davidson.

Woodman’s replacement Ayesha Leti-I’iga proved just as dynamic, scoring two tries, including the decisive 72nd minute to give the Black Ferns the lead.

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Stylish attempt fires Black Ferns up front

“Most people probably don’t even know we went on a northern tour last year and we got pumped up,” said New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant.

“I’m proud of the way the players have turned themselves around. We sacrificed so much to get one chance in a lifetime to win a World Cup at home and we succeeded.”

English hooker Amy Cokayne landed twice in a frenetic first half, scoring seven tries.

Fluhler scores sparkling Black Ferns try

But New Zealand surprised England by also scoring attempts to hook Georgia Ponsonby and prop Amy Rule from driven mauls, while still expressing himself with his bum.

The Black Ferns took the lead from England for the first time with two tries in the first nine minutes of the second half to make it 29-26.

The first was a magnificent backline try completed by center Stacey Fluhler and the second came from New Zealand’s surprisingly strong set piece.

Cokayne’s hat-trick attempt, again from a lineout drive, after New Zealand received a penalty from a collapsed scrum in front of the posts, enabled England to retake the lead 31-29 in the 54th minute.

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New Zealand rallied again and Leti-I’iga scored after Fluhler won the race to a kick behind the English line and brilliantly held the ball up in front of the winger.

England were shattered by the result that turned its hopes of turning its dominance of women’s rugby into a world title for nearly three years on its head.

England strike first in World Cup final

It fielded nine players who lost to New Zealand in the last 2017 World Cup final, including captain Sarah Hunter.

“Sport can be cruel at times and I am so proud of the way this team has shown itself, not just tonight but over the past three years,” said Hunter.

“Hopefully one result doesn’t define the team, the individuals, the people they’ve become and the journey we’ve taken.

Portia Woodman, Wayne Smith and Sarah Hirini from New Zealand celebrate the win. (Getty)

“Tonight was a great showcase for women’s rugby and a tribute to New Zealand. You can’t take it from them.”

New Zealand played with great enthusiasm against a team from England who are arguably the best women’s team in history.

England scored attempts through fullback Ellie Kildunne and Cockayne to take a 14-0 lead after 14 minutes, but New Zealand didn’t lose form or goal.

Ruahei Demant and Kennedy Simon from New Zealand celebrate the Rugby World Cup. (Getty)

Ponsonby’s try, which immediately followed Thompson’s red card, narrowed the lead to seven points.

England again advanced with a try by Marlie Packer from a rolling maul in the 21st minute, but New Zealand answered with a try at Leti-I’iga.

Cockayne took the lead 26-14 after 32 minutes, but New Zealand rallied again just before half-time with an attempt by Rule.

New Zealand got off to a great start in the second half with a long-range attempt to Fluhler, who made an intermediate pass with fullback Renee Holmes.

When prop Krystal Murray scored, England fell behind for the first time.

New Zealand co-captain Kennedy Simon was shown a yellow card 65 minutes into the game for a high tackle and Cockaye put England back in the lead.

Kiwi cult hero leads crowd in song

But New Zealand could not be denied and regained the lead before holding out under pressure for its sixth world title.

France claimed the bronze medal, beating Canada 36-0 in the play-off for third place.

New Zealand 34 (Ayesha Leti-I’iga 2, Georgia Ponsonby, Amy Rule, Stacey Fluhler, Krystal Murray tries; Renee Holmes 2 conversions) England 31 (Amy Cokayne 3, Ellie Kildunne, Marlie Packer tries; Emily Scarratt 3 conversions). HT: 19-26

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