New Zealand Women through to Sevens semifinals in Tokyo

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Earlier in the day, in the final game of pool play, they beat Russia Olympic Committee (ROC) 33-0, 90 minutes after other teams had finished before the onset of a thunderstorm. With the prospect of lightning strikes the New Zealanders had to sit out time to complete their programme.

 

By the vagaries of the draw, that meant after beating they would then meet them in a quarterfinal.

 

Frustrating as that may have been, they proved too strong and claimed a 36-0 win, opening their score a minute into the game when Theresa Fitzpatrick crossed for a try. Gayle Broughton followed soon after and Michaela Blyde scored before the break to give the Kiwis a 17-0 lead at halftime.

 

 

A superbly-placed kick by Kelly Brazier sat up nicely for Ruby Tui to open the second half scoring, and the game was rounded out with Portia Woodman scoring two tries, both of them showcasing her superior speed.

 

Captain Sarah Hirini said she was 'pumped' to get through to the semifinals at an Olympics.

 

She said the short time between games against the same opponent was something different but they had dominated them quite well in the first game and they were also able to improve, in the second game, on areas exposed in the earlier game.

 

“The confidence in our group at the moment is unreal, it's really high.”

Sarah Hirini

 

Their wait to find who they would play in the semifinal was extended once again due to the weather and an interruption during another thunderstorm.

 

But they had played both Australia and Fiji recently and would be watching their game with interest, she said.

 

It didn't matter whether it was Australia or Fiji they met, she said, it was an Olympic semifinal and that prospect was exciting.

 

While Australia pipped them at the inaugural Olympics final in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Hirini said they were more concerned with the 'here and now' because only some of the players had been involved then.

 

"For us, we've got to throw everything at this next game, it's do-or-die for us now. It's just going to be about our basics and preparing well tonight," she said.

 

 

Earlier, there was a moment of alarm when Stacey Fluhler dropped a pass just out from New Zealand's line. However, Tyla Nathan-Wong managed to disrupt the Russian possession from the scrum and they were able to clear their line.

 

As they probed an exit from their territory Fitzpatrick run a superb line to split the Russian defence, and while she didn't have the legs to go all the way, she flicked an offload pass to Tui who was perfectly placed to take the ball and run in the first try.

 

Pressure mounted on the Russians who found it difficult to retain the ball and it was Tui on the right flank who put her speed to use to run around the only defender for her second try.

 

New Zealand turned at 14-0 and when another dropped ball occurred for the Russians Hirini was onto it in a flash to pick up the ball and fire a long pass to Woodman to score. Nathan-Wong landed an outstanding sideline conversion to take New Zealand to a 21-0 lead.

 

Fluhler then picked up consecutive tries, the first on the left flank when running through on a deft grubber kick put through by Tui, and then on the end of a movement on the right flank.

 

In an incredibly shock result, New Zealand will face Fiji in the semifinals at 2pm NZT tomorrow, after they upset reigning Olympic champions Australia 14-12 in their quarterfinal. 

 

Day Two Results

 

New Zealand 33 (Ruby Tui 2, Stacey Fluhler 2, Portia Woodman tries; Tyla Nathan Wong 4 con) ROC 0. HT: 14-0

 

Quarterfinal: New Zealand 36 (Theresa Fitzpatrick, Gayle Broughton, Michaela Blyde, Ruby Tui, Portia Woodman 2 tries; Tyla Nathan-Wong con, Risi Pouri-Lane 2 con) ROC 0. HT: 17-0

 

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