The Black Ferns have finished their World Cup preparations with a 95-12 demolition of Japan, with wing Portia Woodman scoring seven tries.
It was an exhibition of running, passing and offloading – but not necessarily tackling and for that reason this probably wasn’t the World Cup warm-up that head coach Wayne Smith was hoping for.
The recently organised match gave his side a final runout on Eden Park ahead of their first World Cup match – against Australia - on the ground on October 8, but Japan were porous defensively and relatively easy to handle at the breakdown.
The Cherry Blossoms, ranked 13th in the world and with a victory over the Wallaroos in Australia to their credit this year, were a relatively unknown quantity. Unfortunately for them the writing was on the wall quickly - Kendra Cocksedge over for two early tries to set the scene for the rest of the match.
The visitors allowed the Black Ferns far more leeway than they will receive during the World Cup. In fact, they let in 15 tries in total, but scored two themselves via flanker Seina Saito and replacement hooker Sachiko Kato – both from close range and near the ruck – which will be one area Smith’s side will want to tighten up.
The score was 45-7 at halftime, wing Woodman scoring three first-half tries through pace and power.
Hooker Luka Connor and Sarah Hirini also got on the scoreboard, with fullback Renee Holmes, who took the wide kicking duties, successful with two from the left sideline.
Japan didn’t handle the ball in Black Ferns’ territory until the 22nd minute – a dropped pass incidentally – which led to a 50-22 kick from the home side and, eventually, yet another try.
The Black Ferns showed pace, passing ability and intensity, and yet sometimes it appeared so easy they had too many options once they broke through the defensive line, such as it was.
Most of the Black Ferns impressed with the ball – most notably Woodman, of course, who appears to have lost none of her pace from the sevens circuit.
She scored her seventh try in the final minutes – a snappy catch from a Ruby Tui pass – but her best may have been her fifth when she took an inside pass off a scrum 60m out and ran past or through three defenders on her way to the try-line. Woodman’s sixth came minutes later.
Smith emptied his bench after 56 minutes, with influential playmakers Ruahei Demant and the incomparable Kendra Cocksedge taken off.
The final intrigue was whether the Black Ferns could break the century of points, but they just ran out of time.
Black Ferns 95 (Portia Woodman 7, Kendra Cocksedge 2, Luka Connor, Sarah Hirini, Renee Holmes, Amy du Plessis, Stacey Fluhler, Ruby Tui tries; Cocksedge 5 cons, Renee Holmes 4 cons, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu con)
Japan 12 (Seina Saito, Sachiko Kato tries; Ai Hirayama con)