England lost the World Cup final in devastating fashion as New Zealand staged a second-half comeback to snatch a 34-31 victory in an all-time classic.
The TikTok Women’s Six Nations champions looked set for a comfortable win when they surged into a 14-0 lead inside 15 minutes, but a red card for Lydia Thompson mid-way through the first half cost them dearly.
The winger was sent off for a head-to-head tackle on Portia Woodman and, though they fought heroically for the rest of the match, they were unable to hold off an inspired New Zealand in Auckland, despite a hat-trick from Amy Cokayne.
The hooker’s three tries all came from rolling mauls and England had a chance to snatch victory in the final minute from a lineout, but New Zealand turned the ball over.
Absolute heartbreak. @EnglandRugby you have been a credit to your country. We are so proud of you 🌹❤️🏴
— Rocky Clark MBE (@RockyClark_1) November 12, 2022
The result mirrors that of five years ago and snaps a 30-match winning run for England, who were the pre-tournament favourites and world number one side.
They were living up to that tag and then some in front of a 43,500-strong crowd, a record for a women’s match, in the early stages.
Assured and clinical, they surged into a 14-0 lead inside 15 minutes thanks to tries from Ellie Kildunne and Amy Cokayne – the first coming from a superb passing move.
However, Thompson’s red card completely changed the game and shifted it decisively in New Zealand’s favour.
The Black Ferns responded with a try almost immediately, Georgia Ponsonby going over from a maul to cut the gap to seven points.
However, in a sign of things to come, England responded in kind and their expertly-constructed maul was once again at the heart of it, with Marlie Packer dotting down their third try of the match.
— Maggie Alphonsi MBE (@MaggieAlphonsi) November 12, 2022
That put England 19-7 ahead but, with a player down, defending space out wide was almost impossible and New Zealand didn’t take long to exploit it – Ayesha Leti-l’iga crossing in the corner.
The Black Ferns had the momentum and the crowd on their back but the rolling maul was a trump card England were only too happy to play. Cokayne smashed her way across again for England but Amy Rule replied for New Zealand, as the Red Roses led 26-19 at the end of a pulsating 40.
The game threatened to run away from England at the beginning of the second half as Stacey Fluhler and then Krystal Murray scored tries to put New Zealand ahead for the first time.
But Cokayne completed a hat-trick of rolling maul tries to restore England’s lead, which they held until the 71st minute.
Skills on show from the black ferns 🔥🔥🔥
— Quade Cooper (@QuadeCooper) November 12, 2022
Leti-l’iga crossed in the corner following a perfect off-load to edge New Zealand ahead in what proved to be the winning score.
However, England never game up and won a penalty in New Zealand territory with two minutes to go. But instead of kicking for goal and forcing the match to extra time, they went for what would have been a match-winning try and kicked for the corner.
The lineout was set but New Zealand turned the ball over to become world champions for a sixth time.