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'Don't think we've quite got that right': How red card changed RWC final

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Black Ferns’ incredible 34-31 win over England in last weekend’s World Cup final at Eden Park was a thrilling end to a ground-breaking tournament – but the Test wasn’t without controversy.


New Zealand qualified for the World Cup decider after a hard-fought win against France in their semi-final, with flyhalf Caroline Drouin missing a penalty in the final minute.

But their toughest challenge was waiting for them in the final, after World No. 1 England extended their winning streak to 30-Tests against Canada.

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While the Black Ferns were playing in front of a passionate New Zealand crowd, England were the favourites, and they lived up that label early in the final.

The Red Roses raced out to an early 14-nil lead after tries to Ellie Kildunne and Amy Cokayne, but disaster struck soon after for the visitors.

Winger Lydia Thompson was controversially red carded in the 17th-minute after a head clash with New Zealand’s Portia Woodman. This ultimately proved to be a crucial moment in the Test, as the Black Ferns got themselves back into the final.

New Zealand scored a few tries down the left edge during the final hour of the match, as they made of the most of their one player advantage.


Speaking on The Breakdown, Sky Sports commentator Fauono Ken Laban questioned whether it was the right decision to show Thompson a red card.

“I don’t think we’ve quite got that right,” Laban said.

“I think if it’s an accident and no intent, and it was clearly an accident and no intent, there needs to be a halfway house. She needed to have been replaced.

“If you have a look, Ayesha’s (Leti-I’iga) tries were on the edge, Stacey’s (Fluhler) try was on the edge… that’s where the player who got sent off was defending.”


Even though they were down to 14-players, England managed to hold on to their lead until almost the 50-minute mark.

The Red Roses seemed to have an answer for every point that the Black Ferns scored, courtesy of their rampaging driving maul.

Hooker Amy Cokayne scored a hat-trick in a losing World Cup final, as England fell just three-points short of what would’ve been an incredible result.

Former Scotland international Brendan Laney said the Black Ferns “weren’t meant to win” and the red card decision needs to be “done right.”

“We talked about it previously to the program, the refereeing was really, really good. There had been a couple of performances in previous games that weren’t the greatest, but I thought she refereed really, really well,” Laney said earlier on The Breakdown.

“The head on head thing, it’s been so tough for all referees in all our levels, it’s such a tough thing.

“In a final, that sort of thing happens, you’re taking a person out of the game. Then there’s the one later in the game where it was against the Black Ferns, could that have gone a different way?

“That head on head thing, we’ve got to make sure that’s done right and I thought they refereed it really well.

“It was a big decision in the game, it was a big decision to take them down to 14, and obviously we went down to 14 as well. I thought both teams adjusted really well.

“The Black Ferns, they weren’t mean to win that game. If you look at the way the English played and had been played for 30-odd games, they weren’t meant to win that.”


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