Kiwi Ferns clinch series over Jillaroos
The New Zealand Kiwi Ferns have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match series against the Australian Jillaroos with a 16-4 victory at Eden Park on Sunday.
In the first of two matches between the teams on Sunday, following the New Zealanders' win in Saturday's series opener, the visitors struggled against a home side that produced a number of stadium-jolting hits.
Ferns No.6 Laura Mariu in particular produced a handful of bell-ringers to the delight of the largely pro-Kiwi crowd, highlighting New Zealand's assault on the Australian attack.
It paved the way for New Zealand centre Janna Vaughan to show serious pace over 40 metres for the game's first points, running a smart line against the grain and leaving her Trans-Tasman rivals stuck in the mud to take a 6-0 lead.
The Aussies responded immediately when Ali Brigginshaw found some space too, but some more desperate defence from the Vaughan epitomised her side's commitment without the footy.
The Jillaroos finally broke through on the deadly right foot step of the rangy Kellye Hodges, ensuring they were down by just two points at the break.
But from there the home side locked their opponents in their half for the rest of the game and crossed for two more tries through centre Nora Maaka and fullback Sarina Fiso.
Maaka fooled almost the entire stadium with a big dummy before she brushed past two defenders to extend the home team's lead to six, before Fiso sealed the win by finishing off a simple right side shift that was too quick for a tiring Jillaroos defence.
Although disappointed with the result, the Jillaroos' Ruan Sims was delighted with the chance to play in front of a bumper Eden Park crowd.
"That was most definitely not the result we were after today, the ball didn't roll our way and we didn't help ourselves. Hopefully this afternoon we will be able to step it up and come away with some positives," Sims said.
"The NRL have just been amazing, I can't sing their praises enough. They have given us an opportunity we didn't have years ago at the World Cup and it's going from strength to strength."