New Zealand beats England in Women’s Rugby World Cup final

New Zealand beats England in Women’s Rugby World Cup final

New Zealand beats England in Women’s Rugby World Cup final

Replacement winger Ayesha Leti-I’iga scored her second try in the 72nd minute as defending champion New Zealand rallied to beat top-ranked England 34-31 in a breathtaking final to the Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Hooker Amy Cokayne earlier had scored three tries at the heart of England’s trademark rolling maul as the Red Roses overcame a red card in the 18th minute to lead 31-29 with time running out.

But New Zealand, also down to 14 players after a yellow card to co-captain Kennedy Simon, produced a superb try to Leti-I’iga to win back the lead and held on to delight a crowd of more than 40,000 at Eden Park, a world record for a women’s rugby match.

“Most people probably don’t even know that last year we went on a northern tour and we got (thrashed) and (I’m proud of) the way that the players have turned themselves around,” New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant said. “We’ve sacrificed so much to get one chance in a lifetime to win a World Cup at home and we did it.”

England was shattered by the result which upended its hope of turning its domination of women’s rugby over almost three years into a world title. It fielded nine players which lost to New Zealand in the last World Cup final in 2017, including captain Sarah Hunter.

“Sport can be cruel at times and I’m just so proud of the way this team has shown up, not just tonight but for the last three years,” Hunter said. “Hopefully one result doesn’t define the team, the individuals, the people they’ve become and the journey we’ve been on.”

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

New Zealand played with great spirit against an England team which unquestionably is the greatest women’s team in history.

England scored tries through fullback Ellie Kildunne and Cokayne to lead 14-0 after 14 minutes but New Zealand didn’t lose its shape or purpose.

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