Blackwash In Toulouse

Sevens blackwash

For the All Black Sevens, the extra-time 24-19 win over Argentina in the Toulouse final also secured their 14th World Sevens Series crown.

When Pumas flyer Marcus Moneta (96 tries in 108 matches) snatched an intercept to score his ninth try of the tournament it looked likely Argentina would win their third event of the season.

However, grit, composure, and clinical finishing are qualities New Zealand has in abundance. Crucially Akuila Rokolisoa found space to break through initially in the second half and cut the gap to 19-14.

The ability to disrupt or steal lineout possession has been essential and a steal with three minutes remaining resulted in Roderick Solo being released to space. Moneta darted across to make a covering tackle but was fended aside near halfway as scores were tied.

Argentina fumbled the kick-off to start extra time presenting New Zealand with a scrum in midfield 35 meters out. Solo brazenly took Moneta on the outside and accelerated with a gut-busting surge to dive in the corner for the winner.

“We called a move to crash midfield but then it just came out of nowhere, so I had to go for the corner and hope for the best,” HSBC Man of the Match Solo said after his winning strike.

New Zealand secured World Series honours earlier with a defiant 19-14 victory over hosts France in the semis. France started in irresistible fashion when Joachim Trouabal and Stephen Parez Edo Martin both struck from long range as the home crowd became boisterous.

Something inspirational was needed, and it was provided by Moses Leo. Panic passing by France close to their line left a receiver vulnerable to a jolting Leo tackle. Rokolisoa pounced on the loose ball and the gap was halved with his try and conversion.

France committed greater numbers to the breakdown which left space out wide if sufficient patience and physicality were exhibited. Regan Ware crossed after half a dozen phases to leave New Zealand adrift by two at the break.

France peppered the New Zealand line for much of the second half, but the All Blacks Sevens defence remained resolute. The introduction of Tim Mickelson in his 100th tournament was telling. The veteran was a hive of activity and when he entered the French 22, he was able to chest pass netball style to Brady Rush to create an unlikely try in the grasp of two tacklers.

Solo was yellow-carded, and momentum shifted back to France. With the last play of the game, they had a four-on-one overlap, 30 meters out from the New Zealand line, but somehow Mickelson thrust his hands in the air and poached an intercept. France hasn't beaten New Zealand since 2019 and is winless on home soil against the All Blacks Sevens since 2005.

The All Blacks Sevens have won 20 consecutive matches after being bundled out of the Cup quarter-finals at the Vancouver Sevens. They have won series events in 2022/2023 in Toulouse, Sydney, Los Angeles Hong Kong, and Singapore. The final event of the circuit is in London next weekend.

The Black Ferns Sevens sixth consecutive tournament win was like that of their male counterparts. They were blitzed in the first five minutes against the USA conceding converted tries to Naya Tapper and Kristi Kirshe.

 

Stacey Waaka limited some of the damage with a try right before halftime, the rest a chance to regroup. 

New Zealand was a different beast in the second spell. More brutal and accurate on defence they were able to accelerate proceedings on the attack, unsuitable for the larger Americas. 

The continuity was outstanding and tries to Jazmin Felix-Hotham and another for the exceptional Waaka was too much for the USA to stomach. The Black Ferns Sevens won 36 matches in a row after losing the Dubai final in December 2022.

In the semis, the Black Ferns Sevens eliminated hosts France 31-7. Sarah Hirini opened the scoring after two minutes before France enjoyed a long period in possession. In the fifth minute, Séraphine Okemb outpaced Portia Woodman-Wickliffe over 60 metres to the rapture of the home crowd. 

Woodman-Wickliffe was quick to atone following crisp passing that created space on the right wing. The agile Shiray Kaka glided through the flimsy defense and darted 20 metres to make it 19-7 at the interval.

The Black Ferns Sevens were forced to defend resolutely at the start of the second half. Hirini was in vintage touch with her scrambling tackles, breakdown disruption, and turnovers. 

When Woodman-Wickliffe scored her second from a skip pass from Felix-Hotham the French resistance was broken. France has only won two of 23 semis in World Series history.

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