15 Nov 2022
New Zealand Women's road to the Rugby League World Cup final
How the Kiwi Ferns booked a place at Old Trafford against Australia
By James Reid
It has been 14 long years since New Zealand lifted their third, and most recent, women’s Rugby League World Cup title.
But a chance to end their drought against foes and neighbours Australia beckons on Saturday, with an added dash of revenge mixed into the equation following defeat to the Jillaroos in this edition’s group stage.
Despite that defeat, New Zealand have looked dangerous throughout their time in England – with their fightback from an early try against the hosts in the semi-final demonstrating that they mean business.
Australia have emerged victorious from the past two finals played between the two nations, and the Kiwi Ferns will be keen to end this particular streak in Manchester – here is how they made it.
Jillaroos edge group
Group B was always going to come down to the final match between Australia and New Zealand, and so it proved.
With both sides having breezed past Cook Islands and France, the stage was set for a battle to top the group.
A 46-0 win against France and 34-4 victory over Cook Islands were not as emphatic as their rivals’ efforts, but nevertheless ensured comfortable progression for the Kiwi Ferns.
Victory against France in York was the perfect way to open their campaign, with Katelyn Vaha’akolo and Roxy Murdoch-Masila both shining before Cook Islands were comfortably defeated as Raecene McGregor scored and assisted twice.
A titanic battle ensued in York, with little to separate the two giants of the sport. In the end, it was a case of kicking. With each side scoring two tries and Ali Brigginshaw the only kicker to slot between the posts, as Brianna Clark missed twice for New Zealand.
Plenty then, to encourage the Kiwi Ferns, but a semi-final battle with England would have to come first before the chance to get revenge on the Jillaroos.
Home hearts broken in semi-final
Having conceded after just five minutes in front of a partisan home crowd, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was not going to be for New Zealand.
But the Kiwi Ferns roared back in York, with two tries either side of the break powering them to a sixth-successive final appearance.
Mele Hufanga powered over to level the scores before McGregor nudged New Zealand ahead before half-time.
And the Kiwi Ferns took full control of the contest thanks to tries from Otesa Pule and Brianna Clark to once more break English hearts and set up another showpiece with Australia.
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets