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Black Ferns hang on to repel gutsy NZ Barbarians in Nelson

Black Ferns hang on to repel gutsy NZ Barbarians in Nelson

By Joseph Pearson [Stuff]

The Black Ferns wanted a challenge with no international fixtures in 2020 and the New Zealand Barbarians have absolutely provided one.

Their second clash at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park on Saturday, won 19-17 by the Black Ferns, went down to the wire and national selectors will have plenty of decisions to ponder after the final match of the women’s season, 10 months out from New Zealand’s defence of the Rugby World Cup on home soil.

New Zealand Rugby will finalise most of the contracts in the women’s 15s programme for 2021 next month and several Barbarians in red have certainly put their hands up to wear black.

Black Ferns No 8 Charmaine McMenamin charging forward.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Black Ferns No 8 Charmaine McMenamin charging forward.

The Black Ferns were eventually too strong last Saturday, winning comfortably (34-15) in Auckland, but the world champions grimly hung on for the ugliest of victories in the Tasman sun and failed to register a point in the second 40 minutes.

Experienced No 8 Charmaine McMenamin was excellent again, as was skipper Eloise Blackwell and test loose forward Aroha Savage off the bench, who made a big impact in a scrappy second stanza, but it was not a performance of conviction the Black Ferns coaches wanted to finish the season.

Even star halfback Kendra Cocksedge was not at her best in a team that was changed after last weekend.

Black Ferns centre Chelsea Alley running into the Barbarians’ defence.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Black Ferns centre Chelsea Alley running into the Barbarians’ defence.

Their next matches will potentially be tests next April or May and can’t come soon enough in World Cup year.

New Zealand’s defence stood tall when it mattered to deny the Baabaas a shock win and one final attack was repelled in a frantic final minute.

The Barbarians trailed by just two points with 17 minutes left once Patricia Maliepo broke the deadlock in the second-half with a penalty goal and the Black Ferns could not break them down.

The Barbarians congratulating their captain Alana Bremner for her try.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
The Barbarians congratulating their captain Alana Bremner for her try.

The Black Ferns approached the Baabaas during their haka before kick-off, the teams going nose to nose and staring one another out, and firing up the players in what was effectively a final trial for many to prove themselves ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Naturally, the Baabaas thrived when the match was more frenetic and unstructured, in true Barbarians fashion, and they flustered the Black Ferns with dazzling attacks from the training ground, as well as plenty of spontaneous plays from the likes of their promising rookie playmaker, 17-year-old Maliepo.

Canadian international Cindy Nelles was also excellent for the Baabaas at No 8, as was lock Joanah Ngan-Woo, who was capped last year but missed out on the national squad. Ngan-Woo was certainly unlucky to not be playing in black but has stated her case.

The Black Ferns were unhappy with their performance in game one and sought to use the emotion of the tense pre-match haka to start on the front foot, striking first with a brilliant try, prop Phillipa Love scoring after a patient attack from inside their own half.

Hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate then touched down from an unstoppable rolling maul and the Black Ferns looked in clinical form, rattling the Barbarians with greater intensity.

However, against the run of play, the Baabaas hit back, skipper Alana Bremner diving over after a strong carry from Nelles, and they were suddenly ahead after prop Amy Rule’s converted try.

Black Ferns centre Amy du Plessis being dragged down by the Barbarians.
EVAN BARNES/GETTY IMAGES
Black Ferns centre Amy du Plessis being dragged down by the Barbarians.

The Barbarians improved throughout the first half and frustrated the Black Ferns, their breakdown dominance proving less effective, as the red jerseys flooded into rucks for more turnovers.

Love’s second after the hooter from another patient play ensured the Black Ferns led at half-time but the second half was just as tight.

The Barbarians threatened to cause an upset but couldn't convert their best chances and the Black Ferns held on.

AT A GLANCE:

Black Ferns 19 (Phillipa Love 2, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate tries; Kendra Cocksedge 2 con) defeated New Zealand Barbarians 17 (Alana Bremner, Amy Rule tries; Patricia Maliepo 2 con, pen). HT: 19-14.

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