England's Women Face Final Disappointment
Over the last two weeks, culminating in a massive finals day involving their respective country's national squads, some of the finest athletes in the world assembled and competed for the highest honours in their chosen sport. You may not have read about it and you may not have known even that it was taking place. Not, that is, if you depend upon the British press for your information. The event was the Women's Rugby World Cup, organised by the International Rugby Board, which took place in and around Barcelona.
New Zealand had come with a steely determination to win, at any cost one might say. Two high tackles on the Player of the match for England, Selena Rudge, wrenched the head back in a way that would have led to a penalty and a probable yellow card at least in men's rugby. The pre-match period had seen England go through their usual warm-up routine in a shady part of the hot stadium, but the Black Ferns were nowhere to be seen until the national anthems and then explosively the haka - their statement of intent.
England had started the game well and their young standoff, Shelley Rae opened the scoring from a penalty kick, she was to later add a further penalty and then a well-taken drop goal. As the end of the first half approached, England were narrowly in the lead by nine points to six, but then was to come the sin-binning of England's Amy Garnett and in her absence the lack of cover around the blind side of the England scrum led to the Black Fern's standoff, Hirovanaa scoring on the stroke of half time, allowing them to go in to the changing room leading by eleven points to England's nine. Although the England team's confidence was high at the start of the second half with the game very much there for the winning, in retrospect, that try was the critical turning point in the game. Thereafter, when opportunities to run the ball were presented to the England team, they opted instead for penalties, a telling comment on their deteriorating confidence as the New Zealand team tightened their stranglehold, literally, on the England centres.
England finalists in every World Cup to date will have been devastated by this loss but the attitude and demeanour of the players after the game bodes well for the future and in terms of character there is no doubt who the champions really are and the future for the women's game is bright for England while Geoff Richards is able to keep together such an ambitious, dedicated and exhilarating squad. Now all that has to happen is for the RFU and particularly the English media to promote and support their team in the way in which New Zealand support their's.