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Black Ferns thump Wallaroos in O'Reilly Cup try-fest

By Ned Lester
Katelyn Vaha'akolo celebrates with Chryss Viliko after the Black Ferns try. Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Two historic losses set the scene for the first 2024 O’Reilly Cup clash on Auckland’s north shore, providing plenty of edge for both New Zealand and Australia.

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The game started with even efforts, but quickly turned into a landslide for the Black Ferns who ran out to a huge first-half lead and never looked back, claiming a 67-19 win.

A charge down 40 seconds after New Zealand’s kickoff led to an Australian knock-on and an early attacking opportunity for the hosts.

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Scrum dominance from the Black Ferns earned two penalties on the opening two scrums and provided the platform for Kaipo Olsen-Baker to charge over the line for the opening try.

Both defences were having trouble containing the opponent’s respective attacking threats, and phase play proved profitable both ways.

Arabella McKenzie found a gaping hole in the New Zealand defence in the seventh minute and ran in the try untouched. Converting her own try levelled the scores at seven.

Next, it was New Zealand’s turn to attack thanks to a lineout steal off a deflected clearance kick. Sylvia Brunt danced inside two defenders and dragged another two over the line to restore New Zealand’s lead. Renee Holmes again converted.

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The teams found their feet defensively following that effort and while some runs threatened, no one was able to make clean breaks.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
4.7
14
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.3
8
Entries

That was until New Zealand put the ball through the hands and looked to stretch the Australian defence by getting the ball wide. Once in the wide channel, Renee Holmes put the grubber kick through and while the fullback failed to collect the ball, Mererangi Paul was on hand to pick up the scraps and score the try.

Paul was in for her second soon after as the Black Ferns again isolated Paul and her opposite Desiree Miller out wide.

Emphasis on the breakdown ramped up throughout the half, with five players winning turnovers in the opening half hour and Olsen-Baker leading the pack.

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Then, it was Sylvia Brunt time. The dynamic second five-eighth produced consecutive game-breaking runs, setting u two quick tries, both of which were vintage Black Ferns quality. The first was finished by the pace of Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, while the second saw Georgia Ponsonby on the receiving end of the final offload.

The electric Katelyn Vaha’akolo was next to star for the hosts, with the winger tracking down a wayward pass from behind her only to accelerate around the defensive line and place a chip kick behind the covering defenders which she won the race to, finishing a superb individual effort under the posts.

By the time the first 40 minutes were up, New Zealand had claimed a 45-7 lead.

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Chryss Viliko got the scoring underway in the second half after a move breaking away from the lineout drive down the blindside. That made the score an even 50 after the missed conversion.

A hat trick to Mererangi Paul was recorded in the 47th minute, with an unorthodox effort to get over the line as the winger fumbled and recollected the ball at her knees.

The Wallaroos weren’t done scoring points of their own though, and Maya Stewart wasn’t going to be stopped as she found space out wide.

Sylvia Brunt quickly got New Zealand back on the front foot and was stopped just shy of the line, and following a penalty, New Zealand took the quick tap and found a seam to dive through to score.

The Wallaroos struck back in a flash through Arabella McKenzie, who just hung on to the ball long enough to apply downward pressure in her grounding. The playmaker converted her try again.

Attack

233
Passes
163
158
Ball Carries
108
390m
Post Contact Metres
166m
21
Line Breaks
10

The ambition in New Zealand’s attack would only relent momentarily in the opening hour of the contest, but lengthy stoppages in the final 20 minutes slowed their momentum.

16 minutes passed without a New Zealand try before Kennedy Simon rumbled over on a five-meter run. That would be the final act of the game. Final score: 67-19.

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