Rugby World Cup: Portia Woodman leads the haka in history-making match

Portia Woodman’s power was too much for Wales to handle as she scored twice in the 55-3 win over Wales. Photo / Photosport

Proud Northlander Portia Woodman’s name is etched in the pantheon of all-time rugby greats after the Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Whangārei.

She touched down twice — scoring first in each half on Saturday at a packed Northland Events Centre — in a nine-try, 55-3 romp against Wales that will see her side meet France in a semifinal at Eden Park in Auckland next weekend.

France accounted for a plucky Italian side 39-3 in a match that preceded the Black Ferns’ game on Saturday.

Woodman became the all-time leading try-scorer in Rugby World Cup history and that announcement in the second half was heard by all in the crowd except her.

“I didn’t hear the announcement. It wasn’t until the end of the game when [fellow Black Fern] Amy Du Plessis was like ‘Porsh, you’ve created history’ I was like ‘history, for what?”

The rugby powerhouse from Kaikohe led the Black Ferns’ haka in front of her whānau and thousands of passionate fans as an appetiser and followed that up with champagne rugby that got them yearning for more.

Wales couldn’t pick where the Black Ferns were going next. There was just too much firepower in Woodman and Ruby Tui, in particular, to contain while skipper Ruahei Demant’s unerring boot kept the scores ticking along.

The Black Ferns had a presence in everything they did. The forwards kept hitting the defensive line and drawing in the defenders which allowed the backs valuable real estate to charge towards the tryline. Even when they had plenty, the Black Ferns were still hungry for more.

Portia Woodman sent thousands of passionate fans into a frenzy while leading the haka prior to the Black Ferns' win over Wales.
Photo / World Rugby
Portia Woodman sent thousands of passionate fans into a frenzy while leading the haka prior to the Black Ferns’ win over Wales.
Photo / World Rugby

Black Ferns centre Theresa Fitzpatrick was named player of the day.

Wales just couldn’t build enough pressure and the little things started adding up. Playing in their own territory and defending for prolonged periods didn’t help.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game as their offloading game is absolutely insane but the girls gave it their all and there was some tremendous rugby out there,” Wales captain Hannah Jones offered, post-match.

“There’s pros and cons because obviously with having played them before there is stuff we can work on and build into our game. We went in with belief and started really well and testament to the defence, nothing came through us, they came around us.”

Black Ferns coach Wayne Smith said his side was up for it physically.

“Nothing happens without physicality and I liked our attacking intent as well. There was a lot at stake for the forwards and I think we showed that out there in some of the set pieces. There were still things that still didn’t quite function today but that was probably the best we have played all year.”

In the other Saturday quarter-final, Italy scrambled well in defence in the first half before running out of gas in the third quarter when France turned the screws tighter to set up a tantalising semifinal duel with the hosts.

Despite playing against the wind, the Tricolours struck in just the second minute through wing Joanna Grisez who galloped 30m to score.

France had a superior scrum and a better kicking game. Their locks Celine Ferer and Madoussou Fall as well as No 8 Charlotte Escudero were involved in much of the heavy artillery upfront.

Diminutive halfback Pauline Bourdon made a number of sniping runs around the fringes and her side would be disappointed they couldn’t capitalise on a number of scoring opportunities due to unforced errors.

Action from the first quarter-final between France and Italy at the Northland Events Centre.
Photo / World Rugby
Action from the first quarter-final between France and Italy at the Northland Events Centre.
Photo / World Rugby

Italian coach Andrea di Giandomenico said despite the heavy loss, he was proud of his players.

“At the start, we tried to stay in the match, until their power told. France is really powerful. At the start, maybe we could have managed the ball better and the territory, and possession.

“For me, I’m really really proud of the team, of the girls. They tried to show our rugby, tried to fight. I think they showed this. I’m very proud. We try to play our game but under pressure. It’s a motivation to go home, to rest, to start to work again. To do better.”

France mentor Thomas Darracq was happy his team had reached the goal of reaching the last four.

“We managed to take the score with the wind. We had a front wind, which allowed the team to gain confidence for the second half. With the wind at our back, we knew we had power with our footwork.

“And in fact, we continued to play, even if we had to play a bit more with our hands. And it’s true that the fact that we managed the first half well with the wind in our faces is an important element for the victory.”

Quarter-finals between Australia and England and Canada against the US in Auckland were scheduled for yesterday with favourites England dominating the early match, 39-5.

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