Australia Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns
Friday, May 3, 2:00pm
It is a burgeoning rivalry between two teams that are getting the chance to play each other on a more frequent basis and the quality of the games have improved as a result. There is no shortage of passion, skill or commitment when the Jillaroos clash with the Kiwi Ferns.
While the Kiwi Ferns have traditionally dominated the women's game, winning the 2000, 2005 and 2008 World Cups, they were shocked in the 2013 World Cup Final by the Jillaroos who ended New Zealand's 13-year reign as world champions.
The Jillaroos are now the reigning champions, but will go into the clash as underdogs after losing the last Test played between the two nations in 2014 thanks to a typical Kiwis fightback. The Jillaroos led 8-0 at half-time and dominated field possession, but the Ferns would not be denied and scored three unanswered tries, including the match-winner in the last two minutes to second-rower Teuila Fotu-Moala, in a gripping Test match at WIN Stadium, watched by over 16,000 fans on NRL.com.
New Zealand also won the inaugural Auckland Nines series 2-1 in highly skilful and entertaining contests. The women stole the show at the tournament with some of the best tries and biggest hits of the rugby league extravaganza.
We are expecting more fireworks when they clash on Friday night as the curtain raiser to the Anzac Test.
Watch out Jillaroos: The Kiwi Ferns are strong across the paddock, with plenty of speed out wide and brutal defence in the middle of the field. Captain Laura Mariu was a standout at the NRL Nines with several big hits, while Maitua Feterika's massive hit on Sam Hammond was an online sensation. The Ferns have shown time and again they have great composure and will keep playing until the final whistle.
Watch out Ferns: Jillaroos five-eighth Ali Brigginshaw was a standout in the Indigenous women's All Stars game earlier in the year, leading the NRL All Stars to a convincing 26-8 win, while Mahalia Murphy - who will play in the centres on debut is a massively talented 19-year-old and will be a handful for the Kiwi defence. Add the experience of Samantha Hammond at the back and the go forward of captain Steph Hancock at the front and the Kiwis know they'll have to stop them all to claim the victory.
Key match-up: Samantha Hammond v Janna Vaughan. While opposite fullbacks don't come into contact with each other too often, these two will be instrumental in their side's performance on Friday. Both have pace, a great step and have a habit of finding the try line on a regular basis. Vaughan was a constant threat in the recent Auckland Nines, scoring several tries and popping up all over the field, while Hammond made numerous incisive runs with her blistering speed that threatened to open the games open. We expect both to be heavily involved in proceedings.
Match Officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman and Lawrence McDonell.
Televised: Live stream on NRL.com, 2:00pm AEST.
The way we see it: While the Jillaroos are the World Champions, the Kiwi Ferns have proven they are an incredibly strong rugby league team that just won't quit. History shows that they have been virtually unbeatable and while the Jillaroos have come a long way and are more competitive, we think the Kiwi Ferns will just be a little too strong at the backend. Ferns by 8.