We wanted to write about women’s cricket. We really did. We really felt that England’s storming T20 world cup campaign lead by Charlotte Edwards needed a mention and the recognition it deserved, however in the end it came up against another team, a team that faced its foe and won. I am of course talking about the England Ladies Rugby squad. Whereas England’s cricketers still could not shift the Australian’s from their place at the top of the world standings, England Ladies rugby team grabbed their New Zealand foe by the collars and hurled them out, wiping the floor with the Black Ferns during this autumn’s 3 game series here in the UK.
Until November the Black Ferns could not be beaten, with their 2010 win over England Ladies in the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup highlighting the level this team were at. Since that meeting England have gone on to win six nations competitions and a European title or two, however its always been their southern hemisphere rivals that have pipped them at the post. However going into the 3 series test this year England found themselves firm favourites, something that didn’t put the team at ease against an unpredictable New Zealand squad.
By half time of the first test it would seem that the pundits definitely had it wrong. England limped behind the Black Ferns by 10 points, seeing the score board read 3 -13 to New Zealand at the beginning of the second half. However England dug in to stage a brilliant come back, (assisted by some undisciplined play from the Black Ferns) with a try from Sarah Hunter and penalties from the reliable Emily Scarratt to end the game 16-13 to the home side.
The second test saw England make nine changes to their squad, sending out a message to the visitors that there would certainly be no resting on any laurels and that the fight was definitely on. And a fight it was. With gutsy defending, the Black Ferns could not break through the white wall of England shirts, allowing England to finally finish the game 17-8 victors and wrapping up the series 2-0.
The final test at Twickenham Stadium followed on from the momentous defeat of the New Zealand All Blacks by England’s men’s team, a result nobody predicted, especially not the All Blacks. Although the turn out was nothing like the 82,000 recording for the men’s game, about 3000 watched England’s Women wrap up a historic series win 31-23. Tries came from Katherine Merchant (2), Emily Scarratt, Roz Crowley and Jo Watmore whilst Scarratt added to the score board with the boot.
Popularity in women’s rugby is slowly growing in the UK and with a well timed £20 million cash injection into the RFU from Sport England recently, will hopefully set the path for the Women’s 2014 World Cup.