Wallaroos downed but have confidence new Test program will continue growth

Womens International
by Emma Greenwood

UPDATE: Wallaroos coach Dwayne Nestor has faith in his squad full of "untapped talent" to compete with the best in the world despite a 37-8 loss to the Black Ferns.

The Wallaroos were held scoreless in the second half but Nestor was proud of his charges' response to last week's 47-10 drubbing in Perth.

"I'm actually pretty proud of the girls because we didn't get bullied this week, there's probably just some one percenters that we've got to get better at and we've got the opportunity to work on that next year," Nestor said.

Despite having a two-game series against Japan earlier this year, the Wallaroos still took time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the world's best team.

Alisha Hewett fronts her Kiwi opponent as the Wallaroos up the physicality against the Black Ferns. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

But a chance to play the top five teams in the world next year, in their biggest Test program outside of a World Cup is set to push the Wallaroos to another level.

"They're a quality team. They are the no.1 ranked team in the world for a reason," Nestor said of the Silver Ferns.

"The good thing is that we get to play them twice a year (again) next year and that's a great opportunity to play the best.

"If we want to be up there with the best we've got to play the best.

"The Test match program for next year looks great for us, it's going to give us the opportunity to play the top five team in the world, so that's where we want to be."

 

Australia will play the US and Canada as well as two Tests against the All Blacks, before hosting England and France in November.

Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton was again outstanding, earning twin turnovers early in the first half to show the Black Ferns that Australia meant business.

"I was really proud of the girls, I think you can see the improvement over the last week," Hamilton said.

"We really lifted for each other and you can see  how we're playing top-level footy and the improvement in us.

"We're a young growing team and the Black Ferns have spent a lot of time together.

"My messaging to the team after the game was: 'We stay united, we stay strong and we come together and we work hard in the off-season because we want to be here and we want to compete and we ultimately want to win'."

Nestor said he had every faith in his team to continue to improve.

"We're starting to settled on a pretty strong squad," he said.

"Obviously we've got our eyes open for any talent we can pick up in the meantime.

"But we have faith in these girls. There's some talent there that's pretty untapped and it's our job as coaches to make sure we get the best out of that talent."

 

They might not have been "bullied" but the Wallaroos have learnt there is still a fair margin to be bridged if they are to beat the best in the world.

Despite a much-improved physical effort, the Wallaroos lost 37-8 to a Black Ferns outfit that kept them scoreless in the second half after a competitive first term.

The Ferns showed why they are the top team in the world with an outstanding performance despite what captain Les Elder called a "shaky start".

The Wallaroos had a sniff of an upset at halftime despite trailing 17-8 at halftime at Eden Park but they could not go on with it to register their first ever win against the Black Ferns.

Australia needed to raise its level of physicality after being embarrassed 47-10 in the opening leg of the Lauria O'Reilly Memorial Cup in Perth and they did in a competitive opening 40 minutes.

The Wallaroos had talked plenty about changing their fortunes from the first Test but an early turnover handed the Black Ferns possession and Ruahei Demant made the most of the space to race over with three minutes remaining.

Mahalia Murphy's change from fullback to the wing drew some questions but she made the most of her first touch of the ball, brushing off defenders at will to score in the seventh minute to ensure Australia stayed competitive in the match.

The pressure told on the Black Ferns, who conceded three penalties in the row but they managed to withstand Australia's pressure and added to their score when Kendra Cocksedge slotted a penalty in the 23rd minute.

The decision to go for the posts was a compliment to Australia.

But it was soon business as usual for the Black Ferns, who started winning turnover ball at the set piece, handing a glut of possession and field position to the Kiwis.

The buffer built through the penalty allowed the Ferns to kick for touch the next time they received a penalty and it paid off, with lock Eloise Blackwell eventually getting the ball down, despite initially being held up by Iliseva Batibasaga.

The Wallaroos started to find their range in the closing stages of the half and earnt a penalty, which Lori Cramer slotted to reduce the margin to nine points at the break.

The Ferns reinstated their 12-point lead after 50 minutes with another penalty conversion to Cocksedge but Cramer could not do the same when presented with an opportunity minutes later.

Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton decided to kick for points rather than push the ball into the corner for a lineout, with Australian's set piece shaky again but it was a decision she was likely to be regretting in hindsight.

Playing heads-up rugby, classy halfback Kendra Cocksedge played on from a penalty, setting up her backs for another attacking raid and while Batibasaga was able to make another try-saving tackle, Carla Hohepa was able to race over in the corner soon after.

The Ferns sealed the result just minutes later when no.8 Charmaine McMenamin crossed and added the cream on top when they scored after the siren through Charmaine Smith.

RESULT

BLACK FERNS 37

Tries: Demant, Blackwell, Hohepa, McMenamin, Smith

Cons: Cocksedge 2, Alley

Pens: Cocksedge 2

WALLAROOS 8

Tries: Murphy

Pens: Cramer