|England: (19) 33|
|Tries: Matthews, Atkin-Davies, Bern, Talling, Aldcroft; Cons: Aitchison 4|
|New Zealand: (7) 12|
|Tries: Simon, Vahaakolo; Con: Holmes|
England became the inaugural WXV1 champions with a 33-12 win over world champions New Zealand in Auckland.
The Red Roses capitalised on a fine start against the Black Ferns to end as the WXV top tier’s only unbeaten team.
Facing the side that beat them in last year’s World Cup final, England started quickly with tries from Alex Matthews, Lark Atkin-Davies and Sarah Bern.
Kennedy Simon and Katelyn Vahaakolo replied, before Morwenna Talling and Zoe Aldcroft put England beyond reach.
As well as confirming them as the first winners of women’s rugby’s new global tournament, England’s victory also ensured they will stay ahead of New Zealand at the top of the world rankings.
The platform for England’s win was laid by a blistering start as they raced into a 19-0 lead with three tries inside the first 23 minutes.
Matthews burrowed over from the base of a scrum and that was quickly followed by an Atkin-Davies try reminiscent of the four she scored against Canada in England’s previous outing.
Bern crashed over from close range after multiple phases to extend England’s advantage over a New Zealand team who began with several sloppy errors but finally clicked into gear before the interval.
Simon and Vahaakolo both crossed after overlaps were created on the Black Ferns’ left side, reducing their deficit to seven points, but England again went through the phases to send Talling over close to the posts midway through the second period.
That score meant New Zealand needed to win by more than seven points and score at least four tries of their own to clinch the title – a task that proved beyond them.
After the match, England captain Marlie Packer was named as the winner of World Rugby’s Women’s Player of the Year award.
England end transitional 2023 with perfect record
Following the disappointment of their World Cup final defeat by New Zealand in November 2022, England have bounced back in superb style with a perfect record of 10 wins from 10 games during a transitional 2023.
Simon Middleton’s reign ended with a Six Nations Grand Slam, capped off with a narrow victory over France in front of more than 58,000 people at Twickenham.
Interim head coach Louis Deacon oversaw two Test victories over Canada before WXV and has been at the helm in New Zealand, with incoming head coach John Mitchell linking up with the Red Roses after completing his duties with Japan’s men at the Rugby World Cup.
Moving forward, the Six Nations gets under way in March and there will be another chance for the Red Roses to showcase their talent at Twickenham against Ireland on 20 April.
Twickenham could also stage another rematch of the World Cup final, with talks held between the two respective nations regarding a standalone fixture next year.
The long-term aim is to build momentum heading into the 2025 Rugby World Cup, which England will host.
England: Kildunne; Dow, Rowland, Heard, MacDonald; Aitchison, Hunt; Carson, Atkin-Davies, Bern, Aldcroft, Galligan, Talling, Packer, Matthews.
Replacements: Powell, Botterman, Muir, Beckett, Allen, Wyrwas, Jones, Breach.
New Zealand: Holmes; Tui, Du Plessis, Brunt, Paul; Demant, Marino-Tauhinu; Henwood, Ponsonby, Rule, Roos, C Bremner, A Bremner, Simon, Mikaele-Tu’u.
Replacements: Connor, Murray, Fisher, Sae, Jenkins, Hohaia, Maliepo, Vahaakolo.
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