England ran riot to clinch a record victory over New Zealand in the first of two colossal Test matches between the sides.
Simon Harrison’s outfit thrived behind Zoe Harrison’s excellent disply as the No 1 ranked side in the world outclassed the world champions.
Tries from Abbie Ward (2), Ellie Kildunne, Lark Davies, Holly Aitchison, Abbie Dow and Harrison added to the Black Ferns’ misery.
Aitchison was filling in for the injured Emily Scarratt, making an impressive debut after starring at the Olympics in sevens.
“We’ve got them next week as well. We can’t get complacent. We need to look what we can do better for next week,” Harrison told BBC Sport.
“Today we were really looking at ourselves. Even in the Six Nations we’ve been looking towards the World Cup.”
While Emily Scarratt insists the victory will make next week’s contest even more intriguing: “Unbelievable. You could see that England really wanted to come out here and make a point. The Black Ferns were undercooked, it’s their first game back in a long time. It’s going to be a cracker next week.”
England 43-12 New Zealand
I think most expected the Black Ferns to struggle slightly in their first international encounter in 26 months, but that was a proper shellacking. England were outstanding, and the Black Ferns are going to have to be much, much better in Northampton next week, when these two meet again.
That was a real statement performance from Zoe Harrison. She had been criticised a little bit in the first half of this year, losing her place as Katy Daley-Mclean’s likeliest successor to Helena Rowland, and had a tough Premier 15s final, but that was probably the best performance that she has produced in an England shirt.
FT: England 43-12 New Zealand
FULL TIME! ENGLAND 43-12 NEW ZEALAND
TRY! ENGLAND 43-12 New Zealand (Zoe Harrison try, 81 minutes)
That’ll send the fans home happy! Zoe Harrison is over!
It’s a lovely try from England, working a clever midfield move and then generating quick ball off the back of it. Helena Rowland gets her head up and assesses her options, the long pass cut off but a half-gap opening, Rowland pushing for it and then freeing her arms to give her former Saracens teammate the simplest of final jobs on a fine performance.
Two more to add to her personal tally and England have won in resounding fashion!
England 36-12 New Zealand, 80 minutes
A penalty to England and a last chance to attack with the clock in the red. Pushed into the Black Ferns 22, where England try to maul.
England 36-12 New Zealand, 78 minutes
Zoe Harrison briefly goes all Harlem Globetrotters as she loses control of the ball, perching it on one finger above her head as she takes contact. She eventually knocks on, but that’ll lift her spirits - after an incredibly effective day at fly-half she is named as the Player of the Match.
England 36-12 New Zealand, 77 minutes
England’s restart drifts straight out and New Zealand will try their best to get one more, Aldora Itunu with a particularly punchy carry, but the Black Ferns largely unable to make easy progress. And England will have a scrum feed.
TRY! England 36-12 NEW ZEALAND (Stacey Fluhler, 74 minutes)
New Zealand get one back! It’ll surely be but a consolation but a second score for the Black Ferns.
It’s smart handling inside the England 22 after intricate offloading had made the initial entry. They have an advantage as Krystal Murray carries well, and the strangely quiet Fluhler is the end-player on the line as Kennedy Simon puts her in. The Olympic gold medallist has time for a smile before racing back to halfway, but as the conversion falls short and slides by, this is but a matter of mathematics - England will win.
England 36-7 New Zealand, 72 minutes
England empty their bench - on come the backs, the recently wed and renamed Leanne Infante, Helena Rowland and (late call-up after Amber Reed’s injury) Sarah McKenna on for Claudia MacDonald, Lagi Tuima and Ellie Kildunne.
TRY! ENGLAND 36-7 New Zealand (Abby Dow try, 71 minutes)
An errant pass and Abby Dow is away! She’s been dangerous enough today with bodies around her; there’ll be no catching the Wasps wing as she sprints for another England score.
New Zealand, fighting against the dying of the light, had flung the ball wildly wide and Dow has the simple task of gathering the bouncing ball and slipping into top gear. Zoe Harrison converts.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies