Rugby: Black Ferns bounce back from opening WXV defeat with record win over Wales

Winger Rugby Tui has snatched four first-half tries to lead the Black Ferns to a record 70-7 romp over Wales, as they pulled their inaugural WXV 1 campaign back on track at Dunedin.

After a frustrating one-point defeat to France in their competition opener seven days earlier, the NZ women enjoyed the freedom allowed by the Welsh defence, running in 12 tries, with winger Mererangi Paul also running in a hattrick.

The handling errors that plagued that first-up effort were gone, as the Ferns returned to their expansive best, no doubt enjoying the relative freedom provided by the world No.6 team.

Coach Allan Bunting was forced into two late changes on his bench, with winger and Katelyn Vahaakolo replacing Martha Mataele and rookie prop Sophie Fisher stepping in for Tanya Kalounivale.

Ruby Tui scores a try against Wales.
Ruby Tui scores a try against Wales. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Ferns' first possession saw them put Paul clear down the sideline, but the Welsh forwards scored an early victory, when they sacked an attacking lineout maul and won a scrum against the feed. 

From another attacking lineout, lock Maia Roos was held up over the line and a crossfield kick for unmarked Tui just eluded her grasp.

Paul eventually scored the first try from a lineout win on the other side of the field, with Tui injecting herself into the backline to create the space for her teammate. 

Paul almost had a second within seconds, but was only dragged back by her hair. Playing under advantage, captain Ruahei Demant tried the crossfield kick to Tui again and although it bounced awkwardly, the flyer was able to gather and cut back to score by the posts.

Welsh fullback Nel Metcalfe drew a yellow card for her tackle on Paul, leaving her team undermanned for 10 minutes. Another attacking lineout and a long pass from centre Amy du Plessis laid the foundations for Tui's second try. 

Tui had her hattrick, when the Ferns stole a defensive lineout on the Wales goal-line and du Plessis had space to score, with two players outside her, but unselfishly made the pass for her winger. Moments later, with Metcalfe back on the field, Tui stepped the defence for a fourth try in the space of 15 minutes.

New Zealand looked comfortable with their 27-0 halftime advantage and within seconds of the restart, Demant ghosted into the Welsh backline to snatch an interception, but was dragged down metres from the tryline. 

From yet another attacking lineout, midfielder Sylvia Brunt provided a nifty backhanded offload and du Plessis beat four tacklers to score next to the posts. Brunt laid on Paul's second try, with an inside pass that found the weakside winger joining the backline.

At the other end, Tui made a trysaving tackle, when she stopped rampaging prop Sisilia Tuipulotu head-on on the goal-line, but several phases later, lock Abbie Fleming finally put Wales on the scoreboard from close range. 

Vahaakolo replaced Tui and scored a try with her first touch of the ball, before Demant sliced through the Welsh defence to bring up the half-century of points - but the home side weren't finished yet.

Loose forward Lucy Jenkins benefitted from a marginal pass from Vahaakolo to race away, then finished off a break from replacement halfback Iritana Hohaia for her second. Holmes' sideline conversion realised the Black Ferns' biggest scoreline against Wales. 

Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu in action against Wales.
Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu in action against Wales. Photo credit: Getty Images

When the NZ scrum absolutely obliterated their counterparts against the feed, Paul dashed for the corner in the dying seconds to bring up her hattrick.

Against France, New Zealand has spent 12 minutes inside their opponents' 22 and forced them to make 210 tackles, but committed 15 handling errors that undermined their dominance.

Against Wales - rivals they had beaten twice en route to their World Cup triumph last year - they were simply dominant.

"We can't run it from everywhere for 80 minutes," reflected Bunting. "We're going to come up against a pretty well-oiled English team next week, so we have to be a bit smarter how we play.

"Really proud of our ladies and their effort, especially on defence, but we've still got a few things to work on."

The Black Ferns will now face world No.1 England in a rematch of the World Cup final, when the Kiwis took advantage of a red card and a stolen lineout throw to snatch victory. The Red Roses will be out for revenge at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart.

Black Ferns 70 (Tui 4, Paul 3, Jenkins 2, du Plessis, Vahaakolo, Demant tries; Holmes 5 conversions) Wales 7 (Fleming try; Wikins conversion)

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