- England Women beat New Zealand 16-13 in Esher
- Tries from Sarah Hunter and Kat Merchant key to win
England Women 16 New Zealand Black Ferns 13
England Women came from 13-3 down to come back and beat world champions New Zealand 16-13 at Esher RFC.
With the game streamed live on RFU.com, tries from vice-captain Sarah Hunter and wing Kat Merchant were crucial to the win, while a penalty apiece from fly half Katy McLean and the impressive Emily Scarratt kept the scoreboard ticking over.
The win puts England 1-0 up in the three game series with the sides set to lock horns again in Aldershot on Tuesday night.
But the home side were dealt an early blow when influential full back Danielle Waterman took a knock and was forced off, replaced by the pacey Jo Watmore after eight minutes.
England looked the more dangerous of the two sides as the half progressed and the elusive Merchant was a constant thorn in the Black Ferns side.
The first points came from the boot of McLean with 28 minutes played, putting England 3-0 up. But New Zealand hit straight back, applying pressure from the restart and McLean’s attempted clearance was charged down and touched down by No. 8 Casey Robertson.
The Black Ferns extended their lead five minutes later with a penalty from inside centre Kelly Brazier, making the score 8-3 at the break.
With England needing to impose themselves early in the second half, it was New Zealand who made the statement when fly half Kendra Cocksedge picked up the ball, spotted a gap and darted through to score. The conversion was missed, making it 13-3.
McLean missed a kickable penalty soon after and with 52 minutes played England rang the changes with Fran and Alex Matthews, Sophie Hemming and Rosemarie Crowley all coming on. The replacements made an immediate impact as Alex Matthews and Heather Fisher both went close before No. 8 Sarah Hunter eventually made the pressure tell, burrowing over to score.
New Zealand were then reduced to 14 women with 60 minutes on the clock, replacement Lydia Crossman was sent into the sinbin for an infringement. Scarratt converted the resulting penalty to make it 13-11 as England looked to make the extra women count.
With England in the ascendency, getting points on the board was crucial and smart backline play eventually freed up Merchant out wide to dive over and give the home side a 16-13 lead.
New Zealand threatened to come back into the game but England held firm and are now four games unbeaten against their southern hemisphere rivals.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: "It was great to get the win to start the series off but we certainly made it hard work for ourselves. We didn't execute at time which meant that we missed a lot of chances - we certainly should have had more points on the board in the first half.
"Throughout the match we showed a lot of diversity with several players having to play out of position but their knowledge and skill base, as well as character, shone through. With the next game on Tuesday recovery is key."
England: Hunter 1T, Merchant 1T; McLean 1P, Scarratt 1P
New Zealand: Robertson 1T, Cocksedge 1T; Brazier 1P
England Women starting XV
15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester) replaced by Watmore 8 mins
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester) replaced by Braund 74 mins
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Alice Richardson (Richmond)
11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
10 Katy McLean (C) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield) replaced by Gulliver 40 mins, replaced by F. Matthew 52 mins
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester) replaced by Hemming 52 mins
2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield) replaced by Croker 54 mins
3 Laura Keates (Worcester) replaced by Crowley 52 mins
4 Tamara Taylor (Lichfield)
5 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
6 Heather Fisher (Worcester)
7 Marlie Packer (Bristol) replaced by A. Matthews 52 mins
8 Sarah Hunter (VC) (Lichfield)
16 Emma Croker (Richmond)
17 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield)
18 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
19 Emily Braund (Lichfield)
20 Alexandra Matthews (Richmond)
21 Georgina Gulliver (Lichfield)
22 Francesca Matthews (Richmond)
23 Joanne Watmore (Worcester)
England Women Autumn International Series
- Nov 3, 2012 - England 23 France 13 - Esher RFC
- Nov 23, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Esher RFC - KO 730pm (Live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive)
- Nov 27, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Aldershot Army Rugby Stadium - KO 730pm. (Live on www.rfu.com/englandwomenlive)
- Dec 1, 2012 - England v New Zealand - Twickenham Stadium - KO 5pm (Live on Sky Sports 1HD)
Tickets for England’s Autumn International Series are available through www.ticketmaster.co.uk, priced at £10 for adults and £5 for Under 16s. This excludes the England v New Zealand game at Twickenham on December 1st as there is free entry to the stadium following the conclusion of the men’s match.
New Zealand starting XV
(Brackets denote caps, * for new caps)
15 Selica Winiata (1)
14 Halie Hurring (10)
13 Claire Richardson (14)
12 Kelly Brazier (10)
11 Shakira Baker (3)
10 Kendra Cocksedge (11)
9 Emma Jensen (31)
1 Ruth McKay (10)
2 Fiao'o Faamausili (c) (21)
3 Kathleen Wilton (5)
4 Eloise Blackwell (3)
5 Rawinia Everitt (2)
6 Aroha Savage (4)
7 Justine Lavea (17)
8 Casey Robertson (24)
16 Karina Stowers (12)
17 Stephanie TeOhaere-Fox (10)
18 Aleisha Nelson *
19 Jackie Patea *
20 Lydia Crossman (2)
21 Zoey Berry *
22 Victoria Nafatali *
23 Hazel Tubic (3)
REF Claire Hodnett
AR1 Phil Bowers
AR2 Ken Morgan
No4 Fergus Kirby
No5 Georgina Crabb