In Tauranga Domain, Tauranga: Black Fern 23 (Aisha Leti-iga 2, Alana Bremer, try Kaipo Olsen Baker, center coxage pain) Australia 10 (Try Liz Patu; Lori Kramer Conn, Penn), HT: 5-10.
The Black Ferns had to dig deep to start the Wayne Smith era and struggle to beat Wallarus 23-10 in terrible, wet weather at Tauranga Domain on Monday.
Kendra Cocksedge celebrated becoming the most capped Black Fern in his 58th Test, with a steady play at halfback to ease the nerves of an inexperienced Black Ferns side that had actually been tested by Australia.
The Pacific Series opener was in limbo in the final quarter, but Coxage’s penalty goal on the hour was ultimately enough for a crucial win and her lobbed pass was a sweetener on the hooter for the second try from brilliant wing Ayesha Leti-Iga.
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after a rocky six months in which Former coach Glenn Moore resigns after poor culture reviewIt was a relief for the Black Ferns to play again.
The four-record defeats against England and France on last year’s Northern Tour were raw and brutal.
Things could hardly have been worse for their first Test at home in nearly three years and Australia played a smarter game in the long rain and capitalized on several Black Fern mistakes.
Gloomy skies were looming but Australia, who suffered a crushing defeat to Japan in May, missed out on their first win over the Black Ferns in their 20th meeting.
Four months before the first match of the Rugby World Cup against Wallaraus at Eden Park, defending world champion Kiwis just had to win and a better second half pulled off, albeit ugly.
Smith said he wanted the Black Ferns to play with style, but the dire conditions barely allowed it.
An early crossfield kick towards Ruby Tui on the right wing underlined their willingness to attack despite the wet weather, although they struggled to catch the ball and Australia were placed in their half in the opening 30 minutes.
Wallarus was focused on a more pragmatic approach and reached out to the Black Ferns’ Haka to stir up emotion before kick-off.
He, too, had a point to prove after an absence of tests during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased confidence with an early effort for hooker Liz Patu, improving his lead with a penalty goal from Lori Cramer .
Quick taps and a desire to keep the ball alive as it rained were eventually rewarded, when Coxage fed a swift Leti-Iiga to score and lift the spirits of a drenched, frustrated home crowd.
But it was not an easy way to maintain it.
The skies were open, it was raining incessantly, and Wallacea was dominating.
Two attempts after half-time for loose forward Alana Bremner and a trademark No. 8 finish for debutant Kaipo Olsen-Baker turned a tough game on its head. Locke Mykawankoulani Roose’s superb break propelled the latter’s effort to give the Black Ferns the lead for the first time.
Match Rating: 4/10
Terrible, incessant rain sometimes made it impossible to play rugby, although the Black Ferns maintained an elaborate style that new coaching boss Smith wanted them to keep up with.
The Black Ferns host Canada in Auckland on Sunday in what was expected to be the most competitive match-up before the start of the series.
Canada were reassuring 36-5 winners in the first match of the series against the United States in Tauranga on Monday. It will be difficult to defeat them.
Leti-I’iga lifted the crowd with every touch of the ball and looked dangerous with every carry coming in from the left wing. Olsen-Baker, who was the best of seven Test debutants, got off to a solid start with a brilliant try and rookie center Kelsey Tenetti looks like a star of the future. Playmaker Hazel Tubic made a big impact off the bench.