NEW THEATRE OF DREAMS

WORLD CHAMPIONS

Geez I’m still buzzing two weeks since that epic World women’s rugby cup classic between the Black Ferns and the England Red Roses.

Arguably the greatest World Cup rugby final ever, men’s or women’s, both teams went toe to toe in brilliant action with their wildly contrasting styles. Eleven tries in all in a 34-31 win for the Black Ferns, a red card to England winger Lydia Thompson, a hat trick of tries to England hooker Amy Cockayne at the back of a magnificent almost unstoppable Red Roses line out drive, nicknamed ‘the white anaconda’. 

AGONY AND UTTER JOY Dejected England players in front of the jubilant Black Ferns

In front of a World record full house of over 42,000 fans at Eden Park, this classic went right down to the wire, virtually decided on the last play of the game when Black Ferns replacement lock Jonah Ngan-Woo made a crucial line out steal close to her goaline and with the next play the game finished.

Credit to both teams, the England Roses were superb up front dominating for significant periods despite being reduced to 14 players in the first quarter.

However the Black Ferns just never gave in and when an opportunity presented to attack they were lethal with their brand of rugby chaos, centre Stacey Fluhler starting off and finishing one of the tries of the tournament.

ABSOLUTE MAGIC Stacey Fluhler scores one of the tries of the tournament against England

Don’t underestimate the spiritual and cultural power of the Black Ferns camp because it was huge, their pre-match haka sending shivers up my spine. Head coach Wayne Smith, who will this time next year be Sir Wayne Smith, is a true genius, turning what was a badly defeated team in chaos a year ago into World champions in such a short space of time.

In the process, Smith, his co-coaches and the players formed such a powerful bond and committed right the way through to their running passing free-spirited approach and all done with huge smiles on their faces. They played with no fear. 

On the coaching front what a wonderful achievement for the Hansen family, Black Ferns assistant Whitney Hansen matching the feat of her dad Steve who guided the All Blacks to World Cup triumph in 2015.

ARISE SIR WAYNE-Surely

"When he first introduced himself to us, he said he's never followed the herd and he's always done things differently and that's exactly the type of coach he is" "He definitely doesn't do things by the book and all the players have shown the courage to play different and that's what's so exciting about the style we play."

What an opportunity now for not only the New Zealand Rugby Union to keep this huge momentum wave of popularity of women’s rugby going, but also for world rugby to properly resource a game which has the potential to attract a huge influx of new young players/kids to the game.

Women’s rugby is a totally different game to men’s and shouldn’t be compared just as the women’s game attracts another demographic of people not previously interested in the sport.

I’ve now watched two replays of that brilliant final it was just such a fantastic game and superbly refereed by Scotland’s Hollie Davison.

The Black Ferns players, their personalities, self awareness, intelligence and sense of humour meant I looked forward to the aftermath interviews. They just connected with their fans.

The ball is in play much longer there are fewer stoppages overall and the players have great respect for the refs who really did a fine job. Women’s rugby is just so good to watch.

SPOILS OF VICTORY Members of the champion Black Ferns picked up a number of gongs at the World rugby awards ceremony in France

We have always had male superstars of rugby in New Zealand to celebrate and now we’ve got a whole new group of stars including Ruby Tui, Ruahei Demant, Stacey Fluhler, Portia Woodman, Ayesha Leti-L’iga, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Amy Rule, Krystal Murray, Sarah Hirini, Renee Holmes, Kendra Cocksedge to name a few.

Development of the women’s game and coping with the expected flood of youngsters wanting to play rugby is a now a big challenge ahead for New Zealand rugby but what an opportunity to invest and grow the game which is in bad need of a leg up, especially at grass roots level.

An expanded combined Super rugby competition with Australian teams must come and a Bledisloe Cup-style contest each year against an Australian side which will soon be much improved as they work towards professionalising the top end of their women’s game.

What about a women’s British and Irish Lions team, the opportunities for women’s rugby are endless.

Finally we must salute the defeated England Red Roses. They went 30 matches unbeaten, put women’s test rugby in the spotlight and set a standard everyone else will hopefully try and reach and keep improving.

“To see Eden Park packed for the Black Ferns, I never thought I would see that in 100 years,” “That was the most phenomenal moment of my career, listening to ‘Black Ferns, Black Ferns, Black Ferns’ at Eden Park. “This will go down as one of the great experiences of my life.”

AMAZING FAMILY DOUBLE Whitney Hansen joins her dad Steve as a World Cup winning rugby coach

Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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