When you experience something good, your natural reaction to that experience is to want more of it.
It was the gruelling grand final match-up that everyone expected as Australia’s Jillaroos met New Zealand’s Kiwi Ferns in the World Cup final.
A fiery pre-game Haka from the Kiwi Ferns gave a glimpse into the intensity they would bring into the opening half. Having cruised through their previous games, the Jillaroos appeared to take some time adjusting to the relentless attacking intensity New Zealand threw at them throughout the first half of footy.
Despite a slower start from the Jillaroos, it was the hard-running Isabelle Kelly who opened the scoring for Australia but it did not take long for New Zealand to hit back.
Tournament top try scorer Honey Hireme crossed the line twice in quick succession, exposing Australia’s right hand defence on the wing. Uncharacteristic errors in attack didn’t help the Jillaroos and New Zealand capitalised on this to keep them pinned in their own half.
It took a spark from Isabelle Kelly to reignite the Jillaroos as they started to play the attacking style they are known for. Two quick scoots from dummy half broke the Ferns’ defence and then Caitlan Moran’s right step was enough to split New Zealand as Moran crossed for the Jillaroos second try.
Her successful conversion saw the Jillaroos come into the half time break with a lead of 12-10.
The physicality levels were raised by both sides as the second half saw a number of dominant tackles being made by both sides.
Australia struggled with their fifth tackle options early in the half, limiting their opportunity to extend their lead. Handling errors and penalties from both sides also contributed to keeping the teams locked in a tight arm wrestle.
Isabelle Kelly continued to look to inspire her team as she put her hand up to make some hard hit-ups and her perseverance paid off as she collected a deflected kick off New Zealand to cross for her second try of the game.
Momentum seemed to begin to shift towards the Jillaroos as they began to come into their own. Elliana Walton was able to crash her way over the line and Moran’s third successful conversion saw the Aussies move to 22-10 over New Zealand.
Australia continued to tighten up their defence as they looked to finally get on top of the intensity of New Zealand. With ten minutes to go, the Ferns took advantage of a disjointed Jillaroos defence as Raecene McGregor scored New Zealand’s first points of the second half, bringing the margin to within a converted try.
It was only a few sets later that the Ferns looked to have levelled the scores, but replays showed the ball was lost over the line, allowing the Jillaroos to breathe a sigh of relief.
New Zealand again raised the threat level after a penalty was awarded to the Ferns due to a Ruan Sims strip. The line speed of the Jillaroos forced an error and again the pressure was relieved off the home team as the arm wrestle resumed.
As the clock continued to wind down, Australia was awarded consecutive penalties but were unable to convert these into points. New Zealand’s last roll of the dice came off a handling error by the Jillaroos but a lost ball on the second tackle meant Australia could start to sense a World Cup victory.
With thirty seconds left, Caitlin Moran slotted a field goal to ensure the Jillaroos would retain the cup in 2017 with a final score of 23-16.