Wallaroos taught a lesson by Black Ferns
THE New Zealand women's side marked its first home international in more than two years with an 11-try thrashing of the Australian Wallaroos at Eden Park in the Bledisloe Cup curtain-raiser.
The Black Ferns have never lost to Australia and the 64-point margin equalled the 64-0 scoreline from 1995.
Spearheaded by a quartet of tries to fullback Selica Winiata, who now has 21 tries in 20 Tests, the Black Ferns shrugged off some early rust to blow away the Wallaroos with some slick inside handling and passing allied with some irresistible pace and guile from the outside backs.
Captain and hooker Fiao'o Fa'amausili continued her tryscoring exploits from New Zealand's domestic Farah Palmer Cup with two tries and some typically rugged general play.
"It was a marvellous performance and what a crowd to do it in front of,” Fa'amausili said. "We only assembled on Wednesday, so there was a lot of heart from the girls.
"Our ball retention wasn't great, though, so that's something to work on.”
The Wallaroos were physical in close, but if the Black Ferns moved the ball beyond three or four phases, they always had the visitors stretched to breaking point.
The forwards laid the platform via the likes of Fa'amausili and industrious lock Eloise Blackwell, and then first-five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, who a scored a try and had some nifty moves with her sleight of hand and slick passing.
Centre Portia Woodman did not have many opportunities in space, but set up Winiata's first try and was bruising in defence.
While Winiata was the star turn, right wing Honey Hireme scored a superb solo try to cap the scoring, and No.11 Renee Wickliffe was always a handful for the Wallaroos.
The Black Ferns won two tightheads, which were not so much hooks against the head but just shunting off the ball. Once the home side settled down and played with patience and accuracy, it always looked like they could expose the Wallaroos on the edges.
The second Test of the series is on Wednesday in Albany, but a 2-0 series result looks a formality. Much tougher challenges await the Black Ferns on next month's northern tour, but this was a useful starting point for World Cup preparations.