Rugby: Black Ferns overcome France in physical Toulon test

The Black Ferns have been pushed the limit, but eventually overcame a physical France side to win the first of two rugby tests in Toulon on Saturday (NZ time).

Second-half tries to Eloise Blackwell and Renee Wickliffe helped the New Zealand women win 14-0 in testing conditions at Stade Mayol, after a scoreless first-half.

After crushing an inexperienced USA team 67-6 last weekend, this was a far more demanding test between the current world champions and the reigning Six Nations champions.

The test was the first for France since their final Six Nations match against Wales in March.

France's team featured three players who have been nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year, with captain Gaelle Hermet joined by teammates Pauline Bourdon and Safi N'Diaye, alongside New Zealand captain Fiao'o Faamausili.

France dominated the opening exchanges of the match, showing their intentions by bulldozing the Black Ferns scrum, but handling errors prevented either side from stamping their mark on the game.

The Black Ferns lost Aroha Savage to a yellow card just before the halftime break, as both teams went to the sheds locked at 0-0.

But the world champions were a different beast in the second half, as they managed to hold onto the ball and dominate the territory battle.

They were eventually rewarded, when Blackwell crashed over the line in the 53rd minute, after being held up numerous times before.

Five minutes later, Wickliffe dived over in the corner to extend their lead. Kendra Cocksedge converted both tries.

The Black Ferns then had to repel a late surge from France to keep them scoreless and claim their ninth straight win.

The second and final test of the series is scheduled for Grenoble next Sunday morning (NZ time).