Four-try hero Portia Woodman has inspired the Black Ferns to a 45 – 12 victory over a physical USA and another shot at World Cup glory in Dublin.
With both sides throwing bodies into contact this semifinal was as brutal as it was enthralling, with the Kiwi women showing great composure to withstand the US onslaught and methodically break down the white wall to pounce when the opportunities presented.
The first half was full of quality rugby, with the ruck defence of both sides a standout as the forwards took turns knocking shades off each other.
When the Black Ferns scored through first-five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali off their first attacking raid in only the second minute the strong red, white and blue support crew in the crowd might have feared the worse.But they soon had cause to cheer as their side regrouped and began to impose themselves, scoring a quality try through wing Kris Thomas after fullback Cheta Emba, who terrorised the wide channels with every touch, drew in defenders and threw a magic overhead offload.
That try saw the Black Ferns trail for the first time this tournament, though not for long as standout openside Sarah Goss got over the ball to force another ruck penalty that halfback Kendra Cocksedge duly converted.
Woodman then set the game alight once more when she ran from blind to open on a 45m attacking scrum and beat five defenders on a scorching run to dive under the posts and extend the lead to 15 – 7. At that point 25 minutes in New Zealand had made twice as many carries as the US and were showing a willingness to get in the grind, using the pick and go effectively to tire out their opponents.
However it was the US that finished the half stronger, evening up the possession and territory counts as they threw everything at the black line, turning down kickable points in the process that would have closed the gap before the halftime whistle blew.
The Black Ferns had shown all tournament their ability to burst out of the sheds of each half and they did it again to grow their buffer when a lengthy period of attack led to second-five Kelly Brazier sliding in a grubber that fullback Selica Winiata burst onto before offloading on the ground to Woodman to dive over in the corner.
That try was as good as it got for the US however, as the Black Ferns took control and the Woodman show carried on, first when some stunning quick hands from Brazier put her into space and then when she skinned her opposite to cross untouched.
In between those efforts, replacement Linda Itunu earned a yellow card for a high shot continuing a worrying trend that coach Glenn Moore will need to correct ahead of the final.
Two late tries to replacement hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, who found herself in the tramlines reeling in a cross kick, and a solo effort from player of the match Brazier put a big exclamation mark on a strong performance. The final now awaits, against either England or France.