Ferns pleased with win but need a kicker
Kiwi Ferns coach Alan Jackson has praised the execution in his side's 26-16 win over the Havey Norman Jillaroos on Friday night but says he knew coming in the team would need plenty of tries due to a lack of goal kicking options.
It took until the team's sixth try – and fourth use of goal-kicker – to land a conversion at Hunter Stadium.
While most of the attempts were from out wide several were gettable and it took until lock forward Nora Maaka's shot from almost in front in the 69th minute for the team to add two points to a four-pointer.
While Jackson said he would look to bring in a kicking coach to get the team up to speed at the tee between now and the 2017 World Cup, he was pleased with the team's defence and execution and the way his five debutants performed.
"Just the way the girls have played, they've put in a lot of energy and worked really hard over the last three or four months so for them to get the win was very pleasing. It was a good win," Jackson said after the game.
He also praised the efforts of the Jillaroos, who refused to go away and scored the last try to keep the final margin at 10 points.
"We knew what we were going to get from them, it was only a 10 point win so we didn't overwhelm them or anything. They played really well against us," Jackson said.
"The game was in the balance there for a little while and we were lucky to get the bounce of the ball and get a couple of tries."
However he added the win may have been more comfortable if they had a goal kicker.
"I think we scored six and got one over so there's a couple more points in us yet," he said.
"I think we used four kickers. It's something we knew about and even Grant Podlington our assistant coach said we're going to have to score a lot of tries today so lucky we did.
"We'll get a kicking coach in and get a couple of girls up to speed on it."
Jackson was pleased with how the team responded to a tough opening where they were starved of the ball but held their line intact to concede just a penalty goal in the Jillaroos' opening onslaught.
"We really hung tough. In the first eight minutes we only had the ball once so we did hang tough and we got the ball back and got down the right end we put a try on so I was very pleased with that," he said.
"It showed a bit of grit from the girls but it's like most games, there's flows where you get a lot of ball and you've just got to hang tough when you don't get the ball."
Skipper Sarino Fiso, who scored a double from fullback in a classy effort, praised the efforts of her forwards to soak up the early pressure then lay a platform for the side to score some points.
"I think we defended really well, I think we defended too much at some times and they got some good go forward but we were able to probably have a strong line so we knew the only way forward like our coaches say is to go north first before we go east or west and I think that's what we did," she said.
"Big mention to our forwards that got a good roll on. The Australians got on top of us now and then but with a strong defensive line we held them out."
Jackson said the chance to blood five debutants was a good sign ahead of next year's World Cup.
"Five on debut, that's good for the game going forward, they've got a taste of it now and hopefully they get hungrier," Jackson said.
"There's the World Cup next year so we'll keep the squad together but we'll never guarantee anyone a spot in the side, they've got to earn it each test and they know that so there's a lot of competition.
"We left some pretty good players at home too that will want a piece of this now. The girls are going to have to keep working and keep working hard."
Both captain and coach had plenty of praise for player of the match, Ferns five-eighth Georgia Hale, who produced a high quality all-round game to put the polish on a physical effort.
Hale fired a searing cut-out pass in the 17th minute for one of winger Atawhai Tupaea's two tries, and also popped a nice inside ball for one of Fiso's two tries.
"She played brilliantly tonight, no surprise there, she's a young girl and she's definitely got the right attitude and I'm looking forward to big things from her," Fiso said.
Added Jackson: "We know what we're going to get from Georgie. She works hard off the field and on the field so we know what we're going to get and there's a couple of other girls out there like Si (Sarina) and our loose forward Nora [Maaka] who could easily have picked up the player award.
"It was a real good effort across the board. I thought young Anita Nuuausala was outstanding and it was her first test, she's only a kid and she played really strong."