England beaten 41-32 by New Zealand in Women's Rugby World Cup final
By Andy Swales
Last Updated: 27/08/17 6:52am
Toka Natua scored a hat-trick of tries as New Zealand beat England 41-32 in the final of the Women's World Cup.
The Kiwi forward proved unstoppable, with the Black Ferns touching down seven times in all to overpower the Red Rose who at one stage had led 17-7.
It was New Zealand's fifth World Cup success, and their fourth win over England in the final.
And England will probably look back on Natua's first try in the 39th minute as being the key moment of the game, which allowed New Zealand to reach the break with just a seven-point deficit at 17-10.
In the second half, New Zealand added five more tries to out-class the defending champions for whom Lydia Thompson went over twice.
On a balmy evening in Belfast, it was New Zealand who put the first points on the scoreboard as Selica Winiata used her electric pace to sprint 40 yards and grab the game's opening try, after collecting Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali's cross-field kick.
But Kendra Cocksedge failed to make the conversion and, when Emily Scarratt successfully kicked a penalty in the 15th minute, England's deficit was just two points.
As England continued to dominate possession during the early stages, the under-pressure Kiwis conceded a penalty try close to the posts to fall 10-5 behind in the 25th minute.
The Black Ferns were put to the sword again just after the half-hour mark, with Thompson racing down the right touchline to score England's second try of the night, following a pass from Katy Mclean.
Scarratt kicked the conversion to make it 17-5 but, before the half-time whistle could be blown, New Zealand had grabbed their second try when Natua tumbled over from close range.
Although Cocksedge missed her second conversion, the New Zealanders had made it to the break just seven points adrift.
A rejuvenated New Zealand began the second half strongly with Natua forcing the ball over for her second try in the 45th minute and, when Cocksedge collected her first conversion at the third attempt, the scores were tied at 17-apiece.
Yet, just five minutes later, Scarratt kicked England back in front with a penalty that made good use of the right post before dropping over the bar for three points.
However, New Zealand hit back immediately and, thanks to a strong run by Stacey Waaka, followed by some excellent ball handling, Charmaine Smith put the ball down near the posts.
Back came England to grab their third try of the match - and Thompson's second - with the winger producing another sprint along the line to touch down in the corner.
Although Scarratt was unable to convert, England had sneaked back in front by a single point at 25-24.
This topsy-turvy encounter took another twist in the 56th minute when Natua found space to race clear and over England's line - to claim her hat-trick - before Cocksedge added the extras with the boot.
It was quickly becoming New Zealand's final and, as England's defence appeared to tire, Cocksedge took advantage to burst over the line.
Although the same player missed the conversion, the southern hemisphere country had moved 11 points clear at 36-25.
And victory was secured in the 70th minute when Subritzky-Nadatali's high cross-field kick reached Winiata who had time and space to cross the line with ease.
With four minutes remaining, and from a driving maul, Izzy Noel-Smith grabbed England's fourth try but it was too little, too late, to deny the Black Ferns another World Cup triumph.