- England Women draw final match against New Zealand Women
- Gary Street's side emerge with 2-0 series victory over world champions
Natasha Hunt's try secured a 8-8 draw for England Women in the final match of the three-Test series with New Zealand Women as Gary Street's side clinch a 2-0 series victory.
The final Test at Esher, after a 10-0 victory at Twickenham Stadium seven days ago and a 21-7 win on Tuesday, was the closest of battles with New Zealand registering their best performance of the series.
The Black Ferns had led for most of the match after an early Renee Wickliffe try but England substitute Natasha Hunt levelled the score with a 55th minute touch down. Penalties from England skipper Katy McLean, on the occasion of her 50th cap, and her opposite number Kelly Brazier equalled the score.
The measure of England's success this series is clear when it's considered that New Zealand, have never before lost back-to-back internationals or been prevented from scoring, so the autumn campaign represents sweet revenge after their Rugby World Cup final heartache in 2010.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: "If I had been offered two wins and a draw against the world champions ten days ago I would have happily taken that result, so even though today’s performance wasn’t our best, I am happy.
"I think maybe winning the series 2-0 on Tuesday may have taken the edge off us today but the players showed real resilience to level the match after going behind in the first half.
"We have learned so much about ourselves since the world cup final 15 months ago but really this is just the starting point of where this England team can go. Having 12 players in Dubai for the IRB 7s where the team got to the final and six of our first choice players out injured, means that we are starting to show the real strength in depth we have got.
"We have been able to give massive opportunities to some youngsters in this series who have come through with flying colours and with two months to go before the Six Nations starts we are in good shape.
"I would also like to pay tribute to our backroom staff that have done an amazing job and worked tirelessly in getting three squads out in seven days which is a real achievement."
Just as they did four days ago England started today’s test match strongly, putting New Zealand under immediate pressure. An England line out just five metres out from New Zealand’s line gave England the territory and although they lifted too early England forced a penalty. Skipper McLean couldn’t make the kick but soon had another chance on six minutes and put England 3-0 ahead.
The world champions were, however, a rejuvenated outfit , and were clearly determined not to go home winless. They took their opportunities well and when a ball went loose after a crunching tackle on wing Katherine Merchant, Wickliffe picked up and sprinted down the left wing. Full back Emily Scarratt put in a great tackle, but it was not enough to stop the Black Fern from touching down. Brazier did not make the conversion, but the visitors led 5-3 after 12 minutes.
New Zealand were left battling with just 14 players after full back Hazel Tubic was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Scarratt but England could not able to take advantage. In fact, it was the Black Ferns who put England under real pressure with Brazier and Justine Lavea combining and then Brazier having a second shot of goal. This time she made no mistake with the penalty and put New Zealand 8-3 ahead at half time.
England made a raft of changes at the break to get some fresh legs on. McLean had another chance at goal early on with New Zealand being penalised for several offences, but the England fly half couldn’t make the kick. The Black Ferns then fell foul of the referee once again with flanker Lydia Crossman this time ending up in the sin bin.
This signalled a spell of England pressure. First a good lineout and drive saw England come close and then moments later another well worked lineout saw England drive forward and replacement No.9 Hunt spotted a space to dive in and over the line. McLean missed the conversion but England were now back in the game at 8-8.
From there on in, it was end to end action with both sides pushing forward but also being penalised for their mistakes. With nine minutes to go New Zealand went close when Tupic and captain Victoria Grant found space out-wide but Tupic’s pass was far too ambitious and a possible score went amiss. England clung on and showed tremendous strength in their defence to keep a hurting New Zealand side at bay.
England New Zealand Teams
15 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Rachael Burford (Richmond), 12 Alice Richardson (Richmond), 11 Kay Wilson (Bristol), 10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (C), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Claire Purdy (Wasps), 2 Amy Turner (Richmond), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 6 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) (VC), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).
Replacements: 16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 17 Laura Keates (Worcester), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Marlie Packer (Bristol), 20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 21 Kimberley Oliver (Bristol), 22 Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks).
Substitutions: Oliver for Richardson (30), Packer for Matthews, Hunt for Mason, Fleetwood for Turner (all HT), Keates for Purdy (48), Burnfield for Essex (63).
New Zealand Women
15 Hazel Tubic, 14 Victoria Grant (C), 13 Shakira Baker, 12 Teresa Te Tamaki, 11 Renee Wickliffe, 10 Kelly Brazier, 9 Kendra Cocksedge, 1 Kathleen Wilton, 2 Karina Penetito, 3 Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox, 4 Vita Robinson, 5 Eloise Blackwell, 6 Lydia Crossman, 7 Justine Lavea, 8 Casey Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Doris Taufateau, 17 Muteremoana Aiatu, 18 Amanda Murphy, 19 Rawina Everitt, 20 Emma Jensen, 21 Rebecca Mah oney, 22 Katarina Whata
Referee: Ross Campbell
Assistant Referees: Ed Turnill & Peter Crouch
England Autumn International Series
Nov 26: England v New Zealand, Twickenham Stadium, WON 10-0
Nov 29: England v New Zealand, Esher RFC, KO 7pm, WON 21-7
Dec 3: England v New Zealand, Esher RFC, DRAW 8-8