Jillaroos beaten but not disgraced against powerful Ferns
NEW Zealand Ferns escaped with a 26-16 win against Australia Jillaroos in the women's rugby league Test Match on Friday night in Newcastle.
Gladstone's Chelsea Baker was solid on the wing and said the Kiwis' penetration through the Jillaroos' defence proved costly.
The Aussies dominated the first few minutes of the contest but were unable to make it count on the scoreboard.
"New Zealand is a big set team and they are quite agile where they managed to break through our lines," Baker said.
After Jillaroos held a two-point lead, their momentum was thwarted and perhaps this may have been the turning point when New Zealand winger Atawhai Tupaea took advantage of his team's second set.
She scored the first try of the game at the 11th minute.
It seemed to deflate the home side.
However, Baker said the Jillaroos were never out of the contest.
"It wasn't until toward the end until the last 15 minutes that I thought we were pretty much in the game," she said.
"It was more about them poking holes in our defence."
Australia had four debutants for the Test Match, including Baker and Gladstone's other partner-in-crime, Kody House.
The latter did not take part in the match because of a foot injury sustained in the Reconciliation Carnival during Easter.
Baker said she enjoyed the occasion and was pleased with her input.
"I was happy with how I went and was given plenty of encouragement from my team-mates," she said.
"I was pleased with how much ball I had."
Jillaroos coach Steve Folkes told NRL.com that a week of solid preparation may have led to a false sense of security.
"The girls are really disappointed with their performance," Folkes said.
"There were [a] few tears and it was quite emotional in the sheds, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"Considering when you're playing for your country, you want to do your very best.
"Next time, hopefully, we will.
"Not taking anything away from the Kiwis, but we certainly weren't at our best, which is disappointing.
"If you play as well as you can and you get beaten then you cop that, but our performance was not that," he added.
Folkes sensed a 'comfort zone' environment during the training week and, in hindsight, perhaps the schedule could have been done different.
"Sometimes you train really well and everything goes smoothly, but when you get to the game you take it for granted," Folkes said.
"You think it's going to run smoothly again.
"Sometimes you need a bit of disruption in your training so you concentrate a little bit harder."
The next assignment for Baker is the Central Crows trials on the first weekend in June to select North and South Queensland sides.