|England: (17) 43|
|Tries: Ward 2, Kildunne, Davies, Aitchison, Dow, Harrison Cons: Harrison 4|
|New Zealand: (0) 12|
|Tries: Bremner, Fluhler Cons: Cocksedge|
England scored seven tries to claim a record victory against world champions New Zealand and retain their world number one ranking.
Second row Abbie Ward scored twice and full-back Ellie Kildunne once to give England a 17-0 half-time lead in front of a capacity crowd in Exeter.
The Black Ferns’ Alana Bremner crossed before Lark Davies, Holly Aitchison and Abby Dow scored to reaffirm dominance.
Player of the match Zoe Harrison scored the seventh in the game’s last attack.
It was England’s first win against the Black Ferns since 2017 and surpassed their previous record winning margin of 14 set in 2011.
- ‘Mature’ Harrison ‘sensational’ in New Zealand win – Middleton
England assert dominance after early barrage
New Zealand came to Sandy Park as a relatively unknown entity given they had not played for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But few would have predicted such a dominant victory for the Red Roses, with even Harrison saying England had exceeded their own expectations.
The hosts have had plenty of chances to prove themselves in the northern hemisphere over the past few years, claiming a third Six Nations title in a row in April to show they can handle nearest European rivals France.
But New Zealand were expected to bring another level to Exeter – and in the early stages, they did.
England had to deal with an attacking barrage for the first 10 minutes before Ward’s first try against the run of play.
Swift hands from Kildunne released Dow down the left wing and another impressive offload to lock Ward got England on the board.
England played with increasing confidence after Ward’s second try and Kildunne’s scything run away from New Zealand’s defenders gave them a comfortable 17-0 lead at half-time.
England’s next generation steps up
That lead did not quite seem comfortable enough given the stakes.
The title of world number one was on the line but more importantly, the match provided a marker of where both sides are at before holders New Zealand host the World Cup next year.
The Black Ferns again threatened at the start of the second half as centre Chelsea Alley chipped a kick up for Bremner to score
But in a show of England’s increasing professionalism, the hosts soon quelled the challenge.
Questions about who would fill England’s leadership void following the retirement of fly-half Katy Daley-Mclean in 2020 only intensified when star centre Emily Scarratt broke her leg at the start of this season.
But the Red Roses’ next generation showed they are ready to step up.
As Bremner was shown a yellow card, England pressed their advantage with Davies going over in a maul before sevens player Aitchison made her mark.
Making her England XVs debut and filling the void left by Scarratt at outside centre, Aitchison spotted a gap and cut inside to turn the tide back in the Red Roses’ favour.
Dow grabbed a loose ball for her well-deserved try before New Zealand managed a second and final try through Stacey Fluhler.
Harrison then darted through a hole in the New Zealand defence to round off a performance that will ensure the Black Ferns return with venom when the two sides face each other at Northampton’s Franklin’s Gardens next Sunday.
Player of the match – Zoe Harrison
- Reaction and analysis to England v New Zealand
England: Kildunne; Thompson, Aitchison, Tuima, Dow; Harrison, MacDonald; Botterman, Davies, Bern, P Cleall, Ward, Aldcroft, Packer, Hunter (capt).
Replacements: Cokayne, Cornborough, Muir, Millar-Mills, Matthews, Infante, Rowland, McKenna
New Zealand: Holmes; Wickliffe, Fluhler, Alley, Leti-l’iga; Demant, Cocksedge; Love, Ngata-Aerengamate, Nelson, Blackwell, Wills, Bremner, Elder (capt), Faleafaga.
Replacements: Houpapa-Barrett, Murray, Itunu, Mikaele-Tu’u, Simon, Bayler, Maliepo, Brooker.
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