Endgames can often be slow affairs, stifled by the weight of the occasion and the overall pressure that comes with them.
But sometimes the occasion can turn the final into a historic match, as was the case at the Women’s Rugby World Cup when New Zealand beat England 34-31 in Auckland to become the first country host to win the tournament.
It had it all: countless tries, a red card, a brilliant comeback, a hat-trick and a world record crowd for a packed women’s rugby game at Eden Park.
“I can’t even put it into words. All I can say is thank you and I’m so proud of our team,” New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant said afterwards, according to The Guardian.
“It has been so overwhelming. We are not used to so many fans. We hope to have made our country proud. We hope to have inspired the next generation.
Responding to New Zealand’s haka battle cry before the game, England took a 14-0 lead in as many minutes thanks to tries from Ellie Kildunne and Amy Cokayne.
But the match changed just three minutes later when England winger Lydia Thompson was shown a red card for a head-on collision with New Zealander Portia Woodman.
Now a downed player, the Red Roses conceded a try on the resulting penalty as New Zealand went past the lineout with Georgia Ponsoby on the ground.
The scoreless start continued with tries from Ayesha Leti-I’iga and Amy Rule for New Zealand blocked by Cokayne’s second for England, leaving the score 26-19 in favor England at half-time.
As the defenses wore on in the second half, gaps began to widen and a brilliant, flowing try from Stacey Fluhler combined with scoring from Krystal Murray with her first touch of the ball gave the Black Ferns the lead for the first. times over 50 minutes. .
Five minutes later, Cokayne completed his hat trick and set up a grandstand final with the score 29-31 against England.
But New Zealand regained the lead with just nine minutes to go as Fluhler collected a chip and unloaded on Leti-I’iga to put his side three points clear.
As the clock ticked down England had one last chance to close the three-point deficit but their line-up, so impressive all tournament, went wrong at the worst possible moment just five yards from the try line New Zealander, conceding possession and the game.
It was the Red Roses’ second successive loss to New Zealand in a World Cup final, and they had to console themselves on the pitch as Eden Park celebrated all around them.
“I thought the girls left everything there. Sixty minutes with your back to the wall, to keep fighting and have a shot to win at the end,” England captain Sarah Hunter said afterwards, according to Reuters.
“You couldn’t have asked for more from the girls, they are a very special group and we can be immensely proud of what we have done for women’s football.
“It’s going to hurt, we don’t want to lose the World Cup final, especially the way we did it, but I’m so, so proud of what we did.”