'Words that I cannot repeat': Ruby Tui on how Black Ferns overcame early jitters in win at Eden Park
The Black Ferns opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a stirring haka complemented by a jet flyover that sent the Eden Park crowd into raptures, but it was the Wallaroos who got the fast start once play resumed.
The magnificent occasion for the reigning champions quickly turned south as the Wallaroos raced out to a 17-0 lead with the home side committing a host of errors that piled pressure on and played into the hands of the Australians.
The Black Ferns were able to regain composure to reduce the gap to 17-12 heading into halftime and then were able to produce some of their best rugby in the second half to run away 41-17.
“I’ve been in that position way too many times! The Aussie-New Zealand rivalry is something you can’t script,” Tui said on the side being down early.
“It is something special to be honest. I know it is not the national sport there so I always have respect for them growing the game over there and bringing it to us, it was awesome.”
On what was said to turn around the performance, Tui said she could not repeat it but with the right mix of youth and experience, the team had the leadership to pull themselves out of the hole that they were in.
“A couple of words that I cannot repeat. But the cool thing about is was we were all on the same page. We have had to grow pretty quick in this team and what I think that does is it forces you to bring out your best because if you don’t, someone else will step up. There is pretty hot competition in our team right now.”
Captain Ruahei Demant said the side just needed to get the ball into the right areas before looking to attack wide and use more ball movement.
“It was really difficult for us to get into the game, I think we were playing in to their hands and not playing our game. Once we managed to flick that switch and get into our grove it was a lot of fun,” she said.
“A couple of things. One) having the ball and two) having the ball in the right parts of the field.”
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Black Ferns head coach Wayne Smith admitted that his side may have been ‘overwhelmed’ by the occasion which was a situation all of the players had never been in before with a home World Cup game against traditional rivals in front of a record crowd at Eden Park.
“I think it was overwhelming for a lot of the players, a lot of them hadn’t been at a World Cup, certainly not in a game like this; it was like no other,” Smith said.
“So, the first half I think was a reflection of that and there were some concerns around how we prepared individually for the game, we seemed to be frenetic and not at our best. But we had a really good half-time, nice and calm and nice and specific and, credit to the girls, they came out and put their game on the park.
“We got out-physicalled in the first half, you can’t hide from that. We were not in the contest, nowhere near it and that’s a concern in terms of the way we prepared.”
Some of the Black Ferns tactics were creatively designed, using switches in the backfield on kick returns that saw the backs from the far side sweep around down the short side.
As the Black Ferns got into their groove, opportunities opened up for the firepower out wide who managed to score seven tries to Australia’s two.
One of the best of the night was Tui’s second, a swerving run after a clean break that beat the Australian cover defence for pace. The flying winger was ecstatic after the score and celebrated in unison with the delighted crowd.
Tui spoke of the experience afterward and said that ‘nothing compared’ to the opportunity to play in front of a full Eden Park, the spiritual home of rugby in New Zealand.
“Nothing compares to selling out a crowd at Eden Park in your home country. People said we couldn’t do it,” Tui said.
“As a rugby player in this team, playing New Zealand’s national sport, it is really hard to describe, it is amazing. I have been saying it all night, I am just really proud to be a New Zealand rugby player right now.”
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