Black Ferns vs Wallaroos: Five things we learned

Womens International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallaroos went down to the Black Ferns in Auckland.

What are we talking about after the 45-17 loss?

1. The more Tests the better for the Wallaroos

The Wallaroos need to play more Tests. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThere are always going to be logistic and financial hurdles when it comes to increasing the Wallaroos calendar but Saturday’s Test only underlined their desperate need to play more.

The opportunity to play back-to-back Tests was invaluable for the Aussies this year.

A week was more than enough time for the Wallaroos to plaster over the problems they found in Sydney.

Their maul defence improved out of sight and their own work off set piece yielded rewards in attack as well.

The women have a never-say-die attitude but it’s the technical areas where they are often found wanting.

Those parts of the game can really only be refined by time together and time playing as a team. Two years ago, the Wallaroos were blown off Eden Park by a ruthless Black Ferns side in a 67-3 loss.

Tonight, they looked dangerous when they had the ball and intimidating in defence. 

2. Hamilton leads the charge for the Wallaroos

The Wallaroos’ pack was put under immense pressure at Eden Park and no. 8 Grace Hamilton responded as resoundingly as any.

Hamilton crashed her way to 56 run metres of 18 carries and went agonisingly close to scoring in the first half after a Mahalia Murphy build-up.

She finished with 11 tackles and two turnovers as well, causing some headaches for the Black Ferns in defence.

Hamilton is one of the leaders of this next generation of women’s players and if the rest of her teammates follow her work ethic, they’ll be right in the fight every time. 

3. A bit of muck in the ruck

The Wallaroos’ maul defence was their glaring problem in Sydney but in Auckland it was the ruck that left much to be desired.

At times the Aussies were sluggish to recycle and often their attackers were left isolated in a swarm of Black Ferns players.

That's exactly what the Kiwis wanted, able to control the tempo of the match.

The issues cost them chances in attack in the first half and slowed down their opportunities as the match wore on.

It was in the end far too easy for the Black Ferns to take control there and snatch the momentum. 

4. Poor discipline a painful lesson for Wallaroos

Emily Robinson was sent to the bin 10 minutes into the second half. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyGrit counts for a lot in rugby but even the grittiest sides find it tough to win when they find themselves down a player.

The Wallaroos finished on the wrong side of a 12-9 penalty count and that tally was at one stage 10-4 in the second half.

Those kinds of numbers hurt you against a team like the Black Ferns and a 50th-minute yellow card only compounded the pain.

Prop Emily Robinson was sent to the bin in the 50th minute, putting the Wallaroos on the back foot.

In the time she was off, New Zealand added two tries and were camped in the Wallaroos’ territory, effectively breaking the game open.

It’s hard enough to beat the Black Ferns without gifting them possession and player advantages and the Wallaroos learned that the alternative was simply too much. 

5. Women’s support growing on both sides of the ditch

There was a time when Bledisloe Cup double headers were scarcely even discussed, let alone organised back-to-back to line up with the men’s competition.

The growth of the women’s XVs game in even the past two years has been remarkable and the appetite of fans is growing with it.

There were some bizarre barbs from New Zealand about Australia’s treatment of the women’s teams in Sydney but that will all be forgotten in the bigger picture.

Early estimates out of Auckland were that around 28,000 were watching the women’s Test this weekend after a 28,846 crowd at the end of last week’s Test.

The two nations are vying to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2021 and the support on both sides of the ditch has shown there will be plenty of attention wherever it goes.