Late changes can often disrupt a team but that was not the case for the Australian Jillaroos as a late shift in the halves and the appearance of a debut winger proved to be the difference as they cruised to victory over the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns.
With Sam Bremner ruled out yesterday after sustaining a head knock in the captain’s run, young Central Coast product Isabelle Kelly was called into the seventeen to take her place on the wing to make her debut.
In another ambitious move by Jillaroos coach Brad Donald, he opted to start two debutants in the halves; Simone Smith and Zahara Temara and it paid dividends in the end.
Unfortunately, Smith’s night ended prematurely when she left the field with an ankle injury. Temara and Kelly stood out in their respective positions, however, as both scored a try.
The opening forty minutes of the game was dominated by the Jillaroos in an attacking sense as they put pressure on the Kiwi Ferns line and came away with numerous tries.
The second half was a much tougher slog as they were forced to show steely resolve in defence, repelling constant raids with great cover tackles and hard defence.
The resilience of the Kiwi Ferns was on show, though – even if in the end, they scored just the one try – as they bombarded the Jillaroos line that continued to hold steady in defence.
The defence suffocated and frustrated the Kiwis and ultimately, the Jillaroos held on for a 16-4 win.
With the Women’s World Cup on the horizon, Donald wanted to give all the halves a chance as the pressure and competition for spots begins to heat up.
“We’ve spoken about that all week – to have two rookie halves, we wanted to show faith in those two and we also wanted to show faith in the two incumbents,” Donald said.
“All of them participated and they’re going to push each other all the way to the World Cup so it’s an exciting time for the Jillaroos.”
The two more senior players in Maddie Studdon and Ali Brigginshaw may have been disappointed in not being selected in the starting side but for coach Donald, their guidance, experience and support are just as crucial for the younger, budding halves.
“Maddie and Allie, they had to deal with a bit of disappointment not getting chosen in the original team,” Donald continued.
“What they did all week was supported those two girls and helped them guide the girls around the paddock and that’s what we want to create in these girls, we want to create a squad of 30 or 40.”
When you consider that it was the first time Smith and Temara had played alongside each other in the halves, it makes their performances that much more impressive.
“We haven’t, this was our first time playing together,” Temara said.
“We played against each other in All-Stars but she was half and I was a centre. It was a big week for us to try and get our flow going.”
Australian Jillaroos 16 (Kelly, Temara, Kunst tries; Moran 2 goals) defeated Kiwi Ferns 4 (Tupaea try) at GIO Stadium. Half-time: Jillaroos 12-4.