Auckland, 5 November. (Reuters) – France fly-half Caroline Drouin missed a last-gasp penalty as champions New Zealand set up a successful Women’s Rugby World Cup final against England with a 25-24 win at Eden Park on Saturday.
Kicking forward after Santo Taumata was booked for a high tackle, Drouin fired his shot wide to the left in the final minute as the Black Ferns made a fine escape in front of a roaring crowd.
17-10 at half-time, the hosts took the lead through tries from Ruby Tui and Theresa Fitzpatrick and were in a good position when France sent off a woman yellow card for free-forward Safi N’Diaye for another high tackle in the 70th minute. .
Number eight Romane Menager scored several tries in a powerful display to pull the French within a point with 14 minutes remaining.
But Drouin’s late mission sealed their fate.
France midfielder Gabrielle Vernier refused to blame Drouin, saying the team could have won earlier.
“Today makes us very proud,” she said.
We should have been better throughout the game, we should have defended better.
New Zealand, winners of five of the last six World Cups, will face England in 2017 in a repeat of their last final.
In the previous semi-final at Eden Park, England held off a spirited Canada 26-19. read more
“It really was an unbelievable finish,” New Zealand coach Wayne Smith said.
“I thought he was gone, but he’s not gone. He is and we have a chance next week.”
France have never made it to a World Cup decider and will be playing in a semi-final that eluded them after making hard work of them early on.
New Zealand mounted a furious 17-run attack against their try line in the opening minutes, but the pressure finally paid off when Menager hit the left post in the 23rd minute.
The French defense was atrocious and Vernier was lucky not to be booked after bringing up winger Tui in the penalty area.
France eventually lost after Drouin drove the ball all the way after the half-hour mark, giving New Zealand a scrum in front of the posts.
Flyhalf Ruahei Demant flicked the ball wide to Stacey Fluhler, who flew past the left corner and fired into the crowd.
Fullback Renee Holmes’ conversion leveled the score at 10-10, but the French came again and Vernier slotted home at the left post.
THE AGONY OF FRENCH
The game took a turn for the worse when Holmes sent the French defense ahead with a deft chip four minutes after the restart.
With a lightning strike of a man, Tui won a sprint past Emilie Boulard, knocked the ball out of the full-back’s grasp and chased him down for a try just before the dead ball line.
Although Holmes missed the conversion and a long-range penalty minutes later, the Black Ferns’ running game was now on as the French were tiring.
Lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos headed the hosts two meters from their posts before Fitzpatrick burst forward to snatch New Zealand’s lead near the hour mark.
Demant converted and kicked a penalty to extend the lead to eight points, but Menager beat the stands when he crashed into the Black Ferns’ nest for the second time.
Further drama was to come when Taumata crashed into a comical Agathe Sochat, a tall man spotted by the TV match referee, right in front of the posts.
Drouin’s shot from around 30 meters was off target, leaving France in agony as Black Ferns fly-half Kendra Cocksedge cleared the ball as the home fans cheered.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Edited by Peter Rutherford
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