It might not quite qualifying as revenge, but England’s 33-12 defeat of New Zealand to clinch the inaugural WXV 1 crown will go some way to soothing the wounds of a year ago.

Just under a fortnight shy of the anniversary of that heart-wrenching World Cup final defeat, if there were any lingering memories in Red Roses minds, it certainly didn’t show.

This was a performance of the highest order, perhaps the one they would have dreamed of producing 12 months ago, but one that will spark excitement for England’s new era under new boss John Mitchell.

It marked a third win from three in the new WXV tournament, securing silverware in the process, and sealed another unbeaten calendar year of rugby for the Red Roses juggernaut.

“I am massively proud, they are a new group and they have grown week on week,” said interim coach Louis Deacon.

"They were outstanding today, but there is a long way to go. We are on a journey and John Mitchell has a few things in place. It is really exciting."

Juggernaut it may be, but this is meant to be a side in transition following the departure of Simon Middleton as head coach in the wake of World Cup final defeat.

Yet this was as characteristic a performance from the Red Roses as ever, its pack utterly dominant, led by a standout performance from Sarah Bern and the indomitable newly crowd World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year Marlie Packer.

England’s captain produced a performance befitting of the award bestowed upon her after the game and revealed focus is laser sharp on becoming world champions in two years’ time.

"I am super proud of all the girls,” she said. “We grew as a group and beating New Zealand in their own backyard, there is no better feeling.

"We have had new backroom staff and we have grown off the pitch. They keep challenging us and we go with positive intent.

"Our goal is to grow to 2025, that is our Everest but we are trying to inspire more players in the game that we love."

Performances like this one will go a long way to scaling the mountain. The Black Ferns had hardly touched the ball before Alex Matthews crashed over after five minutes.

Lark Atkin-Davies and Bern both followed as the Red Roses raced into a 19-0 lead reflective of their utter dominance in the opening stages, the possession stat at times nudging 90%.

If there were to be any complaints it would be that the margin wasn’t bigger. Ellie Kildunne, a livewire at full back, was denied an audacious try by a toe clipping the touchline.

A lead is never a comfortable one against the Black Ferns, however, and when Kennedy Simon crossed just before the break, many in white may have been ruing missed opportunities.

The hosts started the second half well and many could be forgiven for fearing a comeback when Katelyn Vahaakolo got New Zealand’s second after 49 minutes.

But there never seemed to be any panic and after the Black Fern surge was quelled, the Red Roses’ pressure returned. Morwenna Talling scored England’s fourth try to secure control of the contest before Zoe Aldcroft added the gloss with a fifth try just over 10 minutes from time.

It was a shine that this performance deserved. Few teams come to New Zealand and dominate for long periods, nor wrest back control when it is lost. Even fewer run in five tries, at times with startling ease.

There is still plenty of rugby to play between now and the Red Roses’ date with destiny at Twickenham in September 2025 but their WXV exploits should provide plenty of confidence that they will be able to right the wrongs of Eden Park.


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