Jillaroos win tough World Cup final
The Australian Jillaroos won their second consecutive World Cup with a gritty 23-16 win over the Kiwi Ferns at Brisbane Stadium on Saturday.
In a contest that traded leads throughout the whole match, Australia sealed the win with a 79th-minute field goal to halfback Caitlin Moran, after scoring four tries to three.
The Kiwis dominated the opening stanza – completing at more than 90% throughout the first half – but Australia opened the scoring in the ninth minute through Isabelle Kelly, who found space down the left edge.
New Zealand leveled four minutes later with a try in the corner through Honey Hireme.
Hireme added her second – her 13th of the tournament – when crashing over in the 20th minute off a scrum move as the Ferms edged ahead 10-6.
Australia found a way back through a dancing run by halfback Moran, who weaved her way through four defenders for a crucial try just on half-time to take the lead.
The two sides traded line breaks and solid defence in the early stages of the second half, but the Jillaroos found a way to break the deadlock as the Ferns' discipline started to waver.
Five-eighth and Player of the Match Ali Brigginshaw's grubber kick got a deflection and sat up perfectly for Kelly, who zigzagged her way past Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls-Pualau in the 54th minute to create a six-point buffer.
The Australians went further ahead three minutes later as Elianna Walton crashed her way past New Zealand second-rower Hilda Peters beside the uprights for a 22-10 lead with 20 minutes to go.
Krystal Murray busted the Australian defence open and her offload to Raecene McGregor narrowed the gap to set up an exciting finish.
The Kiwis went close again soon afterwards, but Shontelle Woodman knocked on under multiple Jillaroos defenders, with Moran icing the victory with a cool field goal just before the final siren.
It was a hard-fought match played between two great rivals and capped a successful tournament for the women's game.
The game also drew a curtain on the impressive careers of two women's rugby league stalwarts, with Queensland Women's representative players Steph Hancock and Renae Kunst finishing up their on-field duties.
Australian Jillaroos 23 (Isabelle Kelly 2, Caitlin Moran, Elianna Walton tries; Caitlin Moran 3 goals, field goal) defeated New Zealand Kiwi Ferns 16 (Honey Hireme 2, Raecene McGregor tries; Kimiora Nati goals). Half-time: 12-10