Five things we learned as Australia outclass New Zealand to win third straight women's World Cup

Jillaroos dominated the Kiwi Ferns at Old Trafford to draw level with their opponents on three titles

19 Nov 2022

Five things we learned as Australia outclass New Zealand to win third straight women's World Cup

Jillaroos dominated the Kiwi Ferns at Old Trafford to draw level with their opponents on three titles

By Josh Graham at Old Trafford

Ali Brigginshaw's masterclass helped Australia to a third straight women's Rugby League World Cup title after a comprehensive 54-4 win over New Zealand. 

Brigginshaw bossed affairs in the first half as Isabelle Kelly crossed for two tries after Jess Sergis' opener with Julia Robinson's try giving the Jillaroos a 20-point cushion at the break. 

READ MORE: Match Report: Australia 54-4 New Zealand

READ MORE: Match in Pictures: Australia 54-4 New Zealand

Their dominance did not end there - despite only winning the group-stage game between these sides by two points - as Brad Donald's side ran in six second half-tries to join the Kiwi Ferns on three World Cup triumphs.

Emma Tonegato got the first before Sergis added her second and half-back Tarryn Aiken got in on proceedings.

Cherrington Kennedy's quickfire brace, celebrated in the style of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford, was followed by Australia's tenth and final try as Evania Pelite crossed to round things off in style.

Ricky Henry's New Zealand only had Madison Bartlett's try to show for their efforts in their sixth consecutive final appearance.

Here are five things we learned from the women's Rugby League World Cup 2021 final.

Right your wrongs

For all the pre-match talk of New Zealand’s rampaging right edge, it was the Jillaroos’ right side that did the damage at Old Trafford.

Experienced half-back Brigginshaw’s short ball found the onrushing Sergis after five minutes before Brigginshaw converted to put the defending champions 6-0 up.

Brisbane Broncos captain Brigginshaw’s show-and-go saw her skip through the Kiwi Ferns’ defence on the right before a no-look offload got Australia motoring and centre Kelly made the most of the overlap on the left to touch down for her first.

And there was more joy out on the right as player of the match Brigginshaw’s kick sat up perfectly for Robinson to score her seventh try of the tournament, initially taking the outright lead in the overall top-scorer standings.

Even though the Jillaroos started looking left, centre Mele Hufanga – so destructive in a player of the match display against England in the semi-final – was left chasing shadows as Kelly crashed over for her second before the break.

There was no change in momentum in the second half, Sergis sauntered over for her double down the right, drawing level with Robinson on seven for the tournament before Pelite joined them with a try of her own, after skipper Kezie Apps broke through Nita Maynard’s tackle.

The tries kept flowing in a dominant display as the Kiwi Ferns simply had no answer to an outstanding Jillaroos side.

Depth pays dividends

Donald has made painstakingly clear throughout the competition that any combination of his 24-strong squad could make up his best 17.

While the Jillaroos clearly have some superstars and first-choice picks, their ability to rest players seemed to pay dividends on the big stage as they looked far fresher than their Antipodean neighbours.

Henry has made fewer changes to the Kiwi Ferns line-up and relied heavily upon the likes of Golden Boot winner Raecene McGregor whereas Donald has an embarrassment of riches to call upon with the likes of try-scorer Tonegato restricted to a role off the interchange bench.

Henry thought his side would be the more battle-hardened after booking their final place with a gruelling 20-6 win over the hosts, but Donald’s ability to chop and change against the Orchids in the last four ultimately came good.

Visibility is key to future

Australia captain Apps only got back into the sport, having played with NRL star Dale Finucane as a young girl in Bega, after seeing on the news that the Jillaroos had won the 2013 World Cup.

Nine years later she led the three survivors of that 2013 cohort in Brigginshaw. Tonegato and Sammy Bremner to glory, which would never have come to pass if it was not for the coverage the game had previously received.

Apps’ determination saw her embark on four-hour journeys to play for Helensburgh but as the game grows so must the infrastructure to allow more girls to follow in her golden path.

Australia are not the only winners

Australia may have their name engraved on the trophy for a third straight tournament, but they are not the only county to have emerged victorious.

Papua New Guinea’s inspirational run to the semi-finals has quite literally changed the face of the game back home for the Orchids.

PNG made their debut at the women’s tournament in 2017 but failed to win a game and faced discrimination and outdated social attitudes at home.

But after Ben Jeffries coached them to wins over Canada and Brazil this time around the women’s sport will have received a sizeable shot in the arm with more players looking to ply their trade in the Women’s Super League and NRLW.

It would also be remiss not to mention the inspirational Amazonas as Brazil’s debut on the big stage so nearly ended in a momentous first win.

Only a last-gasp try for Canada’s Ravens deprived Paul Grundy’s side a victory just four years after their national side was created and it remains to be seen where the game can go in the South American nation.

Women’s game excels under spotlight

The women’s Rugby League World Cup delivered plenty of thrills and spills for those watching live and on the BBC.

The eight sides involved delivered great spectacles and storylines throughout and the game looks in a healthy place ahead of France 2025.

Craig Richards bowed out as England head coach after an agonising semi-final defeat to the Kiwi Ferns and called for more professionalism of the game if the Lionesses are to further close the gap on their rivals Down Under.

More full-time athletes and a continued drive to spread the women’s game is exactly what is needed for the sport to capitalise on a successful three weeks in England to make it even bigger and better in three years’ time. 

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