Double Delight for New Zealand in Hong Kong

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The Black Ferns Sevens are now joint SVNS leaders with Australia after thrashing the USA 36-7 in the Cup final. The All Blacks Sevens won their first event of the season suppressing LA champions France 10-7.

All Blacks Sevens

The All Blacks Sevens are back, winning the Hong Kong Sevens for the 14th time and securing their 68th SVNS victory in 110 finals.

Grit, composure, and discipline on defense were the key ingredients in the 10-7 victory over France.

The first half was a stalemate with neither team able to open their account and none even close to scoring.

New Zealand’s courage was best exemplified by Scott Curry. The captain tumbled awkwardly in a first-half tackle and was visibly hobbling. Despite his impediment, he scored the first try in the tenth minute after a succession of penalties saw an overlap created on the left wing. Andrew Knewstubb, a titan in the tackle, delivered the last pass.

The All Blacks defense neutralised France by employing chop tackles followed by fierce counter rucks. Attacking the ball and holding players up with multiple bodies was another method that stifled a French side rapidly improving ahead of the Paris Olympics in July.  

Panic would ultimately be the downfall of the French. With two minutes remaining a ridiculous, unsighted pass was thrown straight to Cody Vai who gleefully accepted. Vai also scored in New Zealand’s Cup final win last year.

Varian Pasquet scored with the last play for France but he wasn’t quick enough to warn the referee he didn’t want a conversion to be taken. There was still a second on the clock which could have resulted in a restart.

“There’re a few bumps in the old knees. Man, what a final. That first half was so tough, back, and forth, so physical. Credit to France that was a tough match,” Curry humbly said in the aftermath. 

“Own your job, whatever that is. That’s all we needed to worry about,” Curry emphasised when asked to address the rapid improvement.

Dylan Collier was named man of the match for his robust tackling. Collier was presented his accolade by double Rugby World Cup winner and All Blacks legend Daniel Carter (112 Tests, 1598 points, 99 wins). Collier singled out Curry for special praise.

“He’s a heck of a player that man. To have him help with my leadership is awesome. He’s a hell of a man.”

The All Blacks Sevens won through to the final with a 26-5 victory against Australia. It was their 77th win in 98 meetings against Australia.

The New Zealand victory was built upon rugged defense and superior physicality. Regan Ware, Che Clarke, and Fehi Fineanganofo were particularly unsettling for Australia. It was Andrew Knewstubb who affected the opening turnover. Quick ball followed and Dylan Collier crossed out wide.

With a rare visit inside the New Zealand half, Australia responded with a try from a scrum; Maurice Longbottom outflanked the All Blacks Sevens defense.

Tepaea Cook-Savage struck a crucial blow just before the break. Australia knocked the ball on, close to the line and Cook-Savage nipped quickly from the scrum to score under the sticks.

Australia conceded their third try with a stoke misfortune. The ball was ripped from a ruck, and it dribbled backward towards the Aussie goal line. Cody Vai was alert and beat all chasers to the loose ball.

New Zealand thwarted a barrage of side-to-side attacks with commanding defense. Tony Ng Shiu scored a try from the last scrum, prevailing in a one-on-one contest and sprinting 80 metres.

Black Ferns Sevens

The Black Ferns Sevens scored 36 points in winning their 36th SVNS Cup title. USA was demolished 36-7 in the decider with Michalea Blyde backing up her LA final hat-trick with another in the 30th tournament at the National Stadium.

“We came into this with the mindset of a peak tournament. We had a rocky start yesterday but I’m really proud of how we came out today,” Blyde said.

“We kept it simple and used our strengths. Everyone has different strengths.

"It’s only going to get harder; teams are better. We can’t be complacent,” Blyde warned.

Jorga Miller busted a tackle and scamped free for the first try at halfway. New Zealand had tried to crack the Americans on the left, made little headway, but were patient.

Strangely the first two tries scored by Blyde were reviewed by the television match official, the first for the prospect of Blyde steeping into touch and the next for a dubious grounding. There was no doubt. A little shimmy from skipper Risi Pouri-Lane gave Blyde the necessary gap to race into the acquainted left-hand corner. Miller then turned provider for Blyde with a majestic skip pass.

Things went from bad to worse for the USA when they lost a player to the sin bin for a tackle in the air on Theresa Setefano. The USA briefly showed some resistance. An inspired charge from Ilona Maher was ended by Tyla King, but quick ball would see Alex Sedrick make it 17-7 at halftime.  

The USA was anchored deep inside their 22 at the start of the second half. A kick to halfway was bravely retrieved by King and New Zealand mounted a surgical attack. Blyde juggled a pass from Woodman-Wickliffe but still had time to canter in.

Blyde has scored 28 tires in Cup finals, and Woodman-Wickliffe 33.

The New Zealand bench offered the USA little respite. Stacey Waaka was illusive, Manaia Nuku brutal and Mahina Paul showed her evasiveness with two cracking two, the last an 80-meter dash completed in front of the raucous and packed southern stand.

In the semifinal the Black Ferns defeated Australia 28-14, twice coming from behind to prevail. Australia monopolised possession in the first two minutes but couldn’t break through. However, when Maddison Levi isolated Portia Woodman-Wickliffe in a ruck, the ball jolted free from Woodman-Wickliffe’s grasp and Levi darted away for a try.

New Zealand responded quickly when Jorja Miller ran a cut from a scrum and burst down the middle of the field. Miller didn’t have any support, but she pushed off two defenders and eventually spiraled a pass to Blyde who finished in trademark style on the left wing. Tyla King converted from the sideline and the scores were level. Levi has 46 tries this season, Blyde 43.

Aussie champion Charlotte Caslick was the leading try scorer in Hong Kong last year and when she took an offload in space it was the only invitation she needed. Caslick ran 75 meters for her 176 SVNS try.

Crucially New Zealand responded before the interval when Risi Pouri-Lane steeped off the right foot to open up the Aussies in an inspired 40-metre captain’s burst.

The Black Ferns tightened their defense in the second half. Woodman-Wickliffe and Levi were having a mighty tussle and when Woodman-Wickliffe wrongfooted Levi, New Zealand gained the lead for the first time.

Australia pressed hard for an equaliser, but Pouri-Lane and Miller were especially tigerish. Miller had the last say on the siren when she past the fatiguing Aussies.  

USA beat France 19-5 to make their 11th Cup final. Jaz Gray tip-toeing her way down the touchline and eventually powering 85 metres clear the match-winning try was one of the highlights of the weekend.


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