Wallaroos edged out in Second Test thriller
The Paper to Paper Wallaroos gave world champions the New Zealand Black Ferns a second half scare before going down 22-16 in the second trans-Tasman Test at Viking Park in Canberra on Saturday.
A try to outstanding No.8 Debby Hodgkinson and a conversion from five-eighth Alana Thomas in the opening minute of the second half catapulted the Australians into a 10-8 lead in the series finale.
Competitive across the park and displaying a vast improvement at the lineout – and in defence – after their crushing first Test defeat, the Wallaroos had their nemesis neighbours surprisingly on the back foot.
Australia has never beaten New Zealand in a women’s Test with the two countries first competing at the international level in 1994.
The Black Ferns, reigning World Cup champions from 2006, had won all nine previous Tests against the Wallaroos, including a decisive 37-3 result in Canberra last Tuesday night.
The closest result until this afternoon was an 11-point margin to the Kiwis in Wanganui last year.
However, the Wallaroos ultimate ambition of toppling the Black Ferns was eventually snuffed out by two unanswered tries from the visitors.
Six minutes after Hodgkinson had raised the hopes of a 1200-strong crowd that history was in the making for Australian Women’s Rugby, the New Zealanders stole back the lead with a try through outside centre Huriana Manuel.
Another midway through the second stanza to hooker Fiao’o Fa’amausili, and a second conversion from fullback Hannah Port, pushed the Black Ferns into a buffer zone that an additional two second half penalty goals from Thomas was unable to overcome.
Thomas produced a sound general kicking game on top of her contribution of a conversion and three penalty goals; Hodgkinson was a standout along with fellow backrower Selena Tranter; and rookie winger Nicole Beck produced an outstanding a performance on the wing that suggests her Wallaroos career will be lengthy.
The 20-year-old was only recruited to the game this season after being identified as a likely asset while playing touch football.
The Black Ferns led 8-3 at half time after a try to left winger Carla Hohepa and a penalty goal to Port. Thomas landed a penalty for the Wallaroos.
Wallaroos coach Steve Hamson was delighted with the performance.
“We turned up tonight which was good,” he said, “I asked them to work on a few things for this game and they did, so you can’t question the effort or the commitment. On Tuesday night we probably played for half an hour. In this one we were in there for the whole 80 minutes."
“As I said to the girls later, they were playing the world champions, not some mugs from up the road, and it was a marked improvement from the first Test. I guess where it hurts is that we got so close and if you’re close enough you’re good enough."
“We just couldn’t quite get it over the line, but we have shown over the past two seasons that we are closing the gap on the Black Ferns.”
The result will give the Wallaroos a real sniff that they can compete with the very best, they have risen to the heights in 7s and now look a real threat in the 15s game, especially when some of the players are relatively new the the code. These fleet footed ex touch players will have gained a lot and more test matches will produce more chances for them to shine in the future match ups.
New Zealand Black Ferns 22 (Huriana Manuel, Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Carla Hohepa tries; Hannah Port 2 cons, pen goal) def Paper to Paper Wallaroos 16 (Debby Hodgkinson try, Alana Thomas con, 3 pen goals) at Viking Park Canberra. Crowd: Around 1200.