Wayne Smith didn’t hesitate to review the Black Ferns’ horror debut against Australia
Wayne Smith could have gone to bed happy on Saturday night, after the Black Ferns beat Australia 41-17 to kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign with a win.
But the coach knew he was going to have to watch the first half hour, where they trailed 17-0 and the Eden Park crowd were stunned into silence at one point.
So, once back at the team hotel, he went straight to his laptop and began encoding the game footage – preparing it for closer scrutiny over the coming week – before to stop “around a quarter past one” with the good songs yet to come.
Smith said at lunchtime on Sunday he “then went to bed and slept like a baby – I woke up every hour screaming”.
Overdone or not, it would have been a fair reaction to a first half where Australia scored as many points as they ever scored in their 23 games against the Black Ferns, all of which ended in defeat. .
Playing in front of a crowd of 34,235 – a record for a women’s rugby game and for a women’s sporting event in New Zealand – the Black Ferns at first looked intimidated and made mistake after mistake before turning the tide at the end of the first half.
“I don’t think we handled the occasion well,” Smith said. “I think Australia did it. I thought they were really sharp, really aggressive and really took it from us.
“Individually, I’m not sure we were all prepared for this.
“I think we had a really good half – it was calm, it was positive, it was really specific about what we needed to do, and then we saw a turnaround.
“I’ve just finished coding the rest of the game and part of the second half was outstanding, so that will be our standard from now on and we’ll use that in the review moving forward.”
Portia Woodman scored a hat-trick on the left wing and Ruby Tui scored a brace on the right as the Black Ferns began to play to their potential and Smith was delighted to see the team turn things around so dramatically.
“After half-time there was a real increase in our desire to have a fast ball, to be more physical in collisions, to play faster, which is our game.
“It was really encouraging, I think, to see that the team was in a hole and all of a sudden they were able to get out of it and we were able to flourish in that second half.
“We played absolutely brilliant rugby – we just need to start like this.”
The Black Ferns now head to Auckland to take on Wales at Waitākere Stadium next Sunday.
There won’t be the same sense of occasion as there was this Saturday – Waitākere Stadium is best known in rugby circles as the training ground for the Auckland All Blacks and has around a tenth of more people than Eden Park – but Smith said there would be to focus on how individual players go about their preparation.
“There needs to be reflection from the players and the management group on how we build.x
“Is it individual and authentic to be prepared for the physique you need in the game?
“World Cups are different – the other teams are all marching behind the flag. They are different beasts to what you play the rest of the year, and we have to accept that and be able to rise to that challenge.