Portia Woodman scored a try on Test debut for New Zealand as the Black Ferns defeated England 29-10 at Eden Park on Saturday. New Zealand's women claimed their first win over England in seven outings despite the visitors dominating the opening three quarters of the match, scoring two tries in quick succession in the final 10 minutes to seal victory in the first of three Tests.
New Zealand No.8 Casey Robertson had an outstanding match and looked dangerous whenever she carried the ball from the back of the scrum, while Woodman looked dangerous with ball in hand and made strong tackles as the last defender. England, however, will be disappointed to have lost given their dominance in the set-pieces, with captain Sarah Hunter leading from the back of the scrum, and fly-half Katy McLean orchestrating the backs well.
Both sides were rusty early, having both not played a Test since England defeated the world champions in three matches in December 2012, and each team was guilty of dropping too much ball, but they also each made their way into the opposition's half with some strong running and accurate passes. In the end, spirited defending from the world champions saw them edge their opponents in the first of three Tests. The teams next play at Waikato Stadium on Tuesday before the series climaxes at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe next Saturday.
Woodman's try after Kelly Brazier had landed a penalty gave New Zealand an 8-0 lead after the opening quarter but a moment of madness saw England back in the game after 31 minutes. Former England captain McLean's penalty kick landed disappointingly short and wide of the goalposts only for Robertson to spill the ball forward, and the tourists scored almost immediately from the ensuing scrum, through Marlie Packer, and the sides went to the break with the hosts leading 8-7.
England had the better of the opportunities as both sides looked to attack in the second half, only for poor handling once again to cruel the chances. England then began to tire as New Zealand continued to play the game at pace. New Zealand wing Renee Wickliffe made a break that led to a penalty, which Brazier converted to increase the hosts' lead to seven points with 10 minutes to play, before Amiria Rule and Justine Lavea scored in quick succession to leave England tired, disappointed and defeated.