England women open tour with draw

The England women’s Rugby League team opened their three match tour of New Zealand by twice coming from behind to secure a 22-22 draw against a physically powerful Counties Manukau side at Manurewa.

The match, played out in front of around 300 spectators, saw the Counties side start brightly with two tries in the opening fifteen minutes but England soon settled and started to put their sets together. Natalie Gilmour (Wakefield/Townville Panthers) found a gap on 20 minutes to touch down for a try which she promptly converted.

Counties led 14-6 at the break but England soon reduced the arrears to just two points when Jo Watmore (Warrington Ladies) scorched over from 20 metres which Gilmour converted. Rachel Twibill (Bradford Thunderbirds) inched the tourists ahead with an opportunist break after good work by the forwards. Gilmour’s conversion made it 18-14 to England.

The Counties side rallied and scored two quick tries before the mercurial Natalie Gilmour weighed in with her second try to make it all square. England came close to clinching the game with the last play but a drop goal attempt flew agonisingly wide.

England Head Coach Brenda Dobek commented: “A young England side competed very well with a strong and experienced Counties side and showed glimpses of what we are capable of.

“We have two massive Test matches ahead and the England players will learn from today’s game and I now look forward to us stepping up a level to compete with the Kiwis in Whangerai,” she added.

The team will now prepare for two Test matches against reigning World champions, the New Zealand Ferns (10th October at Whangarei and 15th October at Auckland).

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