England suffer narrow defeat in World Cup final
It wasn't to be for the Red Roses on Saturday, as they suffered a gut-wrenching 34-31 defeat to New Zealand in one of the all-time great World Cup Finals.
England roared into an early lead, thanks to a well-crafted backs move that saw Ellie Kildunne race over and a try from hooker Amy Cokayne, to silence the Eden Park crowd.
The Red Roses suffered a blow though, as Lydia Thompson was sent off with little under fifteen minutes on the clock.
With the numerical advantage, the Black Ferns hit back immediately when Georgia Ponsonby went over for the hosts' first try.
The Red Roses stuck to their task though, as Marlie Packer crashed over for her sixth try of the tournament. However, the Black Ferns hit back again thanks to Ayesha Leti-Iiga, to reduce the deficit to five points.
Cokayne then crashed over for her second of the night, before Amy Rule responded for the hosts, to leave the final delicately poised at half-time.
New Zealand scored within seconds of the restart, spreading the ball wide for Stacey Fluhler to dot down, before replacement Krystal Murray put the hosts in front for the first time when she scored on the 50-minute mark.
With Poppy Cleall, Sadia Kabeya and Claudia MacDonald on the pitch, England refused to give in, as Cokayne powered over for her hattrick to see her side edge back into the lead.
The Black Ferns then lost Kennedy Simon to a yellow card for a high tackle, but Leti-I’iga powered over to regain the lead for her side.
With the clock in the red, England had a lineout five metres out from the Black Ferns line, as they hunted a try to seal the victory. However, the lineout was stolen by the hosts, to boot the ball into touch and seal the victory.
Despite the result, this Red Roses side should be proud of what they have achieved, coming within touching distance of winning the final, despite playing the majority of the match with a player less.
This was a World Cup final for the ages and, whilst the disappointment at losing will no doubt be palpable at the moment, these Red Roses should look back at what they have achieved with pride.