Black Ferns Sevens claim bronze in Madrid

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The Black Ferns Sevens finished third after a devastating defeat to eventual winners Australia in the semifinals. The Black Ferns Sevens conceded two tries in the last minute to lose.

The All Blacks Sevens were edged by Argentina 21-14 in their semifinal before losing to Fiji in the playoff for third. Olympic hosts France beat the Pumas 19-5 in the final. 

Black Ferns Sevens

The Blacks Ferns Sevens appeared final-bound against Australia when leading the semifinal 19-7 with a minute remaining. 

New Zealand was down 7-5 at halftime after Faith Nathan sprinted 85m responding to an opening strike by Mahina Paul.

New Zealand controlled the second half from the outset with aggressive defense. Jorja Miller ripped the ball from a ruck and fired a pass to skipper Risi Pouri-Lane to propel the Black Ferns ahead.

Theresa Setefano then snaffled an intercept and wriggled the ball in traffic to Portia Woodman-Wickliffe who turned into a pinball wizard blasting aside three defenders and dashing clear.

Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Caslick has seen it all before and a weaving run followed by deft hands put Nathan over in the corner. Tia Hinds nailed a sideline conversion as the full-time serin wailed in the background.

There was time for the restart. Australia went sideways, backward, and forwards. There was a juggle of the oval and bounce passes collected.  The tenacious Sariah Paki made an incisive charge to within 30m of the line. A quick recycle saw Caslick with space on the left. New Zealand covered her run but couldn’t prevent the offload to Maddison Levi who tied the scores. Hinds conversion was flawless. 

“Just get it over the black dot. That’s all I was thinking about. Yeah, pretty stoked I got it over,” Hinds said afterward.

“We’re stoked with the win but there’s still a lot of learnings… It definitely wasn’t our best game… The Kiwis didn’t press up as much as we thought, and we were just kind of chain passing and not doing much with the ball.”

Australia went on to beat France 26-7 in the final after scores were tied at the interval. Levi bagged a hat trick to finish the season with a record 69 tries. Australia have beaten France 39 times in 44 matches. France has yet to win a tournament in five finals but are host of the Olympics having won silver in Tokyo. 

Earlier the Black Ferns Sevens avenged their shock loss to Canada on the first day with a 26-14 win in the bronze medal playoff.

There might have been alarm bells when Charity Williams opened the scoring with her 99th SVNS try. 

Mahina Paul got the Black Ferns Sevens back on track. A double left footstep unlocked the defense at halfway. 

Setefano is often at the coalface of defense, but given room to move she can motor. Alena Saili played longer minutes than what she’s been accustomed to recently. Her third try of the tourney gave New Zealand some comfort at 19-7. Canada rallied with an Oliva Apps try before Miller was too agile and fast. 

Like their fifteen aside compatriots last month, the Black Ferns Sevens loss to Canada on the first day wasn’t expected. Canada hadn’t beaten New Zealand in 28 matches, but a 21-0 halftime deficit proved too much to overhaul and a warning that if you drop your guard, the Olympics are wide open.

The Black Ferns Sevens avoided losing three matches in a tournament for the first time since Houston 2013. 

Black Ferns Sevens results:

Black Ferns Sevens: 49 (Woodman-Wickliffe 3, Blyde, Felix-Hotham, Saili, Setefano tries; King 4, Nuku 2, Pouri-Lane cons) Great Britain: 14

Black Ferns Sevens: 17 (Waaka, Miller, Felix-Hotham tries; Willison con) Canada: 26

Black Ferns Sevens: 38 (Miller 2, King, Woodman-Wickliffe, Waaka, Saili tries; King & Pouri-Lane 3 cons) USA: 5

Semi: Black Ferns Sevens: 19 (Paul, Pouri-Lane, Woodman-Wickliffe tries; Australia: 21

3 v 4: Black Ferns Sevens: 26 (Paul, Setefano, Saili, Miller tries; King 3 cons) Canada: 14

All Blacks Sevens

In their first pool match against Fiji, New Zealand comfortably led 19-7 but were pipped at the post. Ponepati Loganimasi's late try levelled the scores, leaving Iowane Teba with a difficult sideline conversion attempt. Teba was up to the task, calmly curling his conversion from right to left and down the middle of the crossbar to seal victory for Fiji 28-26.

Farcically South Africa was reduced to four players by halftime against New Zealand but staggeringly took a 15-14 lead upon the resumption when Selvyn Davis chased down a suprise kick.

New Zealand regrouped when Leory Carter sharply busted from past halfway but South Africa reclaimed the lead 22-21 with a Quewin Nortje try. Moses Leo was in commanding form all weekend. His solo thrust defused South African, who had every right to complain when Carter scored again from a forward pass. 

The All Blacks Sevens wouldn’t receive similar charity in the semifinal against Argentina, canned in the penalty count. 

Statistically Joe Webber was the All Blacks Sevens most effective attacking player and a try by the Waikato veteran followed by another gut-busting run by Leo had New Zealand 14-7 ahead.

New Zealand's strategy of flooding the breakdown initially paid dividends but unfortunately, discipline was lost. Argentina's patience and efficiency with greater territory eventually wore down the All Blacks Sevens defense. Matteo Graziano scored three tries and World Sevens Player of the Year Rodrigo Isgro was colossal with two turnovers and a massive tackle to terminate time. 

 “I thought the boys prepped really well and it just comes down to moments and we didn’t execute those moments,” Leroy Carter reflected. 

“It’s always going to be hard being the top eight from the regular Series season, but we knew what we’re coming up against, there are no excuses. We should have won that game, but we didn’t.

“Props to Argie, they played well but the boys just need to execute those little moments.”

Argentina couldn’t repeat their heroics in the final toppled by France 19-5. France has won two tournaments this season having gone 19 years winless. With a settled, tenacious and speedy roster, including the addition of superstar Antoine Dupont, France is a major threat at the Olympics.

On the subject of the Olympics, double gold-medallist Jerry Tuwai is back for Fiji. His guile and experience helped consign the All Blacks Sevens to fourth with Loganimasi and Teba stinging again by scoring tries.

All Blacks Sevens results

All Blacks Sevens: 26 (Leo, Cook-Savage, Dickson, Webber tries; Cook-Savage 3 cons) Fiji: 28

All Blacks Sevens: 33 (Carter 2, Collier, Leo tries; penalty try; Knewstubb 2 & Rokolisoa cons) South Africa: 24

All Blacks Sevens 22 (Webber 2, Carter, Ware tries; Knewstubb con) Ireland 17

Semi: All Blacks Sevens: 14 (Webber, Leo tries; Knewstubb 2 cons) Argentina: 21

3 v 4: All Blacks Sevens: 10 (Leo, Collier tries) Fiji: 17


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