Rugby World Cup: Black Ferns reach final, set up showdown against England with fightback victory over France

The Black Ferns have reached the Rugby World Cup final by the barest of margins, defeating France 25-24 at Eden Park to set up a showdown against England at the same venue next week.

With time all but up, France had the chance to snatch victory through the boot of first-five Caroline Drouin, after a yellow card and penalty against prop Santo Taumata.

But Drouin's effort pulled left, as the Black Ferns scrambled to hold on for another famous New Zealand one-point World Cup victory over France at Eden Park.

Ruahei Demant and Ruby Tui against France.
Ruahei Demant and Ruby Tui against France. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

While the Black Ferns will face England for their fifth World Cup title, France will play off for third for the seventh time in their history.

In search of reaching the Rugby World Cup final for the first time, France got off to the perfect start through the boot of Drouin, as the two sides locked horns in the opening stages.

It took 20 minutes for a try to come from either side, as France added to their lead when Romane Menager - making her return after missing the quarter-final win over Italy with concussion - crashed over from close range.

In response, the Black Ferns went close through No.8 Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, who was held up in goal.

Fullback Renee Holmes scored New Zealand's first points with a penalty on the half-hour mark, before the Black Ferns struck before halftime.

With a five-metre scrum, a short arm penalty was cleverly taken quickly by Kendra Cocksedge, as an overlap on the left sent centre Stacey Fluhler over, as a nerveless Holmes conversion squared the ledger at 10-10.

But with just seconds to go in the first half, France took the lead when second-five Gabrielle Vernier scored. However, Vernier was fortunate not to be in the sin bin, after a yellow card was spared for a tackle that saw Black Ferns winger Ruby Tui lifted above the horizontal.

Regardless of the decision, France took a 17-10 lead into the second half.

After overturning a 17-point deficit at the same venue in their tournament opener against Australia, the Black Ferns had experience at coming from behind after the break.

Tui hit back for the Black Ferns immediately after halftime, showing incredible awareness to poke a kick from Holmes through to the French in-goal area, beating fullback Emilie Boulard to bring the scores back to 17-15.

And just before the hour mark, the Black Ferns took the lead for the first time when Theresa Fitzpatrick held off three defenders, spinning her way to the tryline to put New Zealand in front.

Another penalty, this time to co-captain Ruahei Demant, took the advantage beyond a converted try - an advantage the Black Ferns would need.

Menager's second try closed the scores back to 25-24, before France were reduced to 14 when Safi N'Diaye was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Taumata.

Despite their numerical advantage though, the Black Ferns couldn't add to their score.

And with just a minute left on the clock, Taumata herself was shown yellow, and gave France the opportunity to seal the win.

But ultimately, fate was on the hosts' side, as the Black Ferns clung on to reach another Rugby World Cup final.

Victory sets up a rematch between the Black Ferns and England, after New Zealand completed a 41-32 win in Belfast five years ago.

France meanwhile will face Canada in the precursor to that match, after their semi-final defeat to England on Saturday.

New Zealand 25 (Fluhler, Tui, Fitzpatrick tries; Holmes, Demant conversions; Homes, Demant penalties) France 24 (R.Menager 2, Vernier tries; Drouin 3 conversions; Drouin penalty)

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