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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

World Cup: Live from Twickenham Stoop, New Zealand v France

The 5th place games at Surrey Sports Park are still going on (it seems), but at The Stoop the business end of the tournament has begun with France against New Zealand. Crowd a bit small at the moment - but then those currently at Guildford will be joining us later, it seems (the USA supporters will be backing Australia, I gather, which should be fun!).

New Zealand on top at the moment with eight minutes gone - but no points thanks to a couple of last minute tackles by the French who, at the moment, are playing well. Or at least they were Carla Hohepa breaks down the far wing to score, conversion missed. 5-0. Anyone who has bet £500 on a Black Fern victory looks safe for their £1 win.

20 minutes gone. Still 5-0. Match has yet to really catch fire, but the French are certainly not rolling over. However, a great 40m burst down the wing by Ferns hooker Fiao'o Fa'amausili smashes through the French defence. She is taken down, but the ball moves across the field to full back Victoria Grant. 10-0. Kick again missed - this time in a very kickable place. This does seem to be possibly the only New Zealand weak point.

Didn't take log for the next try. Carla Hohepa again, breaking through the centre to offload to Huriana Manuel who is in under the posts. 17-0 as Kelly Brazier cannot miss this one.

New Zealand handling is astonishing - so quick. Grabbing every half-chance. France pinned back now. 33 minutes gone, and its another try - Renee Wickliffe in the corner. 22-0 - and excellent kick this time by Brazier, slight breeze behind her. 24-0

[News through from Guildford that USA have beaten Ireland, and that Canada have murdered Scotland. So that's a Canada v USA for 5th place]

And another from the kick-off, Brazier slicing through the defence for Hohepa's sixth try of the tournament, converted to make it 31-0. The bookmakers have a 39 point win for New Zealand - looks like they'll do better than that!.

Its back to the French maul - and its working too. Up to the 5m line from well beyond the 22. And a penalty to France.They choose to run it, and after a long consultation its a try, in the right corner - Laetitia Salles, the hooker - and perfectly converted by Bailon. 31-7 at half time.

The second half is away - and after two minutes its nearly a try for Brazier (forward pass), but never mind one minute later Anna Richards is over - 38-7 as Brazier converts.

Its ominous. New Zealand have already gone ahead of their winning score against France at the 2002 World Cup, and are just one point behind what they managed in 2006. And there is still 30 minutes left. Front row change, however - they know that they have won! Its not as if France are playing particularly badly, just that they hardly ever get the ball!

They have the ball now (23 minutes to go) however, and its the maul again. 10m gained - but then its stopped. As a tactic, though its very effective - but its the only the the French have that is!

Quieter now - though New Zealand have a line out just inside the French 22. Lots of changes from both teams is disrupting the rhythm a bit. All in the French half with 17 minutes left - but France defending well. Trisha Hina nearly breaks through. Game moving across the field. Now New Zealand 10m out. Ball down the line to Wickliffe, but poor final ball to Lavea. Just not quite jelling at the minute, not that they need to.

But now New Zealand have a drive - and are over the line and Joan Sione is credited with that one. Emma Jensen has taken over the kicking and slots that one easily. 45-7.

Nine minutes left. At last France get the ball and run with it, now its a maul starting on the New Zealand 22, passed out to the centre  - and a penalty. Can France make double figures (would be an achievement - their best ever against New Zealand is 10). Another maul, another penalty. 10m out now. French maul very effective - but they have dropped it! Scrum 10m out, by New Zealand put in - and the pressure is lifted.

The lights are on, the crowd is building - slightly - just a couple of minutes left on this one. Disappointing second half, France unable to break through, New Zealand happy to play out time and not strain too much - taking chances when they come along, but otherwise... nothing silly. And that is it - 45-7. Bookmakers (almost) right!

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