Black Ferns wilt fast as England's roses bloom
With two series' defeats to England in the past two years, the reputation that the Black Ferns rule the world in women's rugby has gone, possibly forever.
Yesterday at a chilly Army Rugby Stadium in Aldershot, England won 18-7, with Hannah Gallagher and Joanne Watmore scoring England's tries, with Shakira Baker picking up New Zealand's only five-pointer.
The result followed England's 16-13 win last week. It's not so much that the Black Ferns aren't as good as they used to be but that the heavily resourced England outfit have improved out of sight.
"Obviously, it is a huge disappointment," said Black Ferns coach Brian Evans.
"England deserved their win and we didn't play well again for the second game in a row.
"There were too many unforced errors again, dropped balls, we lacked a bit of chase on our kicks and first tackles killed us."
England play in the Six Nations and the Nations Cup, and just before this series, they played a one-off test against France. The Black Ferns haven't played since that series' loss to England a year ago.
So little wonder that England have it over New Zealand now.
"It is pretty much impossible [to win a series against England] and it showed last year," said Black Ferns No 8 Casey Robertson.
"When we got to the third test we'd just started humming, by then we'd been together for two of the 52 weeks of the year.
"It is the lack of time as per usual but there is not much we can do about that. We've got to make the best of what we've got. We've got a good squad this year and if we can hold that squad through to the World Cup, which is our goal, I am sure we can pull out something special."
The series finishes with what is now a dead rubber at Twickenham on Sunday morning, straight after the All Blacks play England there.
Robertson feels that getting a win at London HQ would take the shine off England's series triumph.
"I'm sure it will feel like they have lost the series if they lose at Twickenham. There would be nothing better than sticking it to them there," she said.
"We have lost our last two tests there so it would be nice to get one up there and come out of the series with a win."
England coach Gary Street isn't buying into that theory.
"I think that's clutching at straws really," he said.
"It is about winning the series. If they are happy to lose 2-1, I am surprised.
"Twickenham is another game but it is two series in a row. If they think winning at Twickenham is a moral victory that's fine but it's not the standards that we set."