Poor France. Their wait for a first World Cup final continues but they may never have a better chance than this. They were a kick away from beating the Black Ferns on their home turf, but Caroline Drouin couldn’t drown the cauldron of boos as she stepped forward to take a penalty in the dying seconds and then watched her kicking effort feet fall clear of the uprights. .
It was the latest action in a thrilling contest in which the Black Ferns finally harnessed the energy of an electric Eden Park to overturn a 10-0 deficit and end a four-game winless streak against the French. .
Their ego-boosting win sets up a World Cup final against arch-nemesis England – the big showdown many predicted at the start of the tournament, capping a dramatic transformation since their disastrous tour north last year .
“We knew France and England were two miles ahead of us,” Black Ferns head coach Wayne Smith said. I don’t know what it will be like, but one thing I do know is that our girls have heart. We will give it a chance.
“The fact that we are in the final now gives us the opportunity to really let go and really go for it. We have nothing to lose. We are outsiders. I’ve never been in this position before, except with the Crusaders – with the All Blacks never. It will be a new feeling for me. I think we will have a good week.
His camp will harden after passing this fierce French ordeal. There was no love lost between these two giants. Gabrielle Vernier’s hit on Ruby Tui in the first half was ruled legal, a snapshot of France’s impressive work during the breakdown and their relentlessness in overrunning New Zealand in defence. Maiakawanakaulani Roos was held back over the line after a powerful run and drive, but the Black Ferns were undeterred as they rallied to make inroads with their trademark offloading game.
A quick jab from their experienced scrum-half Kendra Cocksedge allowed Stacey Fluhler to exploit space down the left and land in a chaotic end to the first half that didn’t end until Vernier does crash moments after, embodying the reverse nature of this contest.
The Black Ferns continued to ramp up the intensity and got the better of the set piece after the break when New Zealand rugby poster Ruby Tui dove on a stray ball which Renee Holmes hacked towards the top of the field. Theresa Fitzpatrick scored her side’s third goal as the hosts survived another French attack to hang on and seal a memorable victory.