Two brilliant try assists from eventual Woman of the Match Georgia Hale has helped the Kiwi Ferns earn redemption over the Harvey Norman Jillaroos in their 26-16 win at Hunter Stadium.
Ferns five-eighth Hale’s efforts comes just three months after she was named woman of the series at the Auckland Nines following the Ferns’ 2-1 win over the Jillaroos.
The Ferns’ victory was the icing on the cake after they were defeated by the Jillaroos in the corresponding game last season – try-scoring doubles from skipper Sarina Fiso and Atawhai Tupaea contributing massively to the end result.
The battle lines were drawn early when the Ferns’ one-out barnstorming style of play showed its worth against the free-flowing Jillaroos – the latter dominating possession in the opening exchanges.
It came at the expense of centre Corban McGregor (collarbone) after she was involved in a tackle gone wrong in the fifth minute. Maddie Studdon’s penalty goal two minutes later eased the pain slightly as the Jillaroos posted an early 2-0 lead.
The Ferns scored the game’s first try in the 11th minute – in just their second set – when winger Tupaea scored in the corner thanks to handy lead-up work by Fiso.
Tupaea was handed her second try on a silver platter when a magical two-woman cut-out ball from Hale allowed her to cross again six minutes later.
Not to be outdone, Jillaroos’ Studdon produced a two-woman cut-out ball of her own which found Samantha Bremner out the back for Australia’s first try in the 24th minute. The fullback’s four-pointer cutting the deficit back to two points.
The Ferns would finish the half up 12-6 however when centre Maitua Feterika powered her way over the try-line from dummy half to score in the 33rd minute.
An error from Emma Young handed the Ferns good field territory early in the second half, which they were able to quickly turn into points. It came off the back of Hale once again whose inside ball to Fiso opened up the Jillaroos defence for the skipper to score.
The Jillaroos wouldn’t die wondering though, that including Karina Brown. The winger’s kick ahead for herself in the 50th minute came up trumps when a Fiso error allowed the winger to pick up the loose ball and score.
The Ferns extended their lead to 10 in the 64th minute when Fiso crashed her way over for her second try of the match after slicing her way through Studdon and Jillaroos skipper Ruan Sims to score.
Krystal Rota’s try four minutes later put the game out of reach for the Jillaroos when she reached over the try-line from dummy half to score.
Rota capitalised on Nora Maaka’s run prior when Jillaroos Sims and Kezie Apps head-clashed in the tackle, leaving the former injured on the ground.
Brown’s second try in the final three minutes helped the Jillaroos to a more respectable score though they would still go down by 10 points at game’s end.
Kiwi Ferns 26 (Atawhai Tupaea 2, Sarina Fiso 2, Maitua Feterika, Krystal Rota tries; Nora Maaka goal) defeated Jillaroos 16 (Karina Brown 2, Sam Bremner tries; Maddie Studdon, Caitlyn Moran goals) at Hunter Stadium. Half-time: Ferns 12-6.