It was a disastrous start for the Kiwis, who made uncharacteristic errors. Great Britain made New Zealand pay for dropped balls and missed tackles, scoring three tries in four minutes.
Finally in the sixth minute, New Zealand strung some phases together and got the ball out wide to speedster Michaela Blyde who scored under the sticks. It didn’t take long for Blyde to score again, this time out wide, but it closed the half time gap to 21-12.
A stern talking to at the break from skipper Sarah Hirini saw New Zealand make some adjustments in the second spell. An error from Great Britain off the restart handed the possession back to the Kiwis who ensured they made the most of the gift. A slick dummy from Tyla Nathan-Wong fooled the British defence and she put the foot down to score.
A hat-trick from Blyde put her side in front with less than a minute to play. Theresa Fitzpatrick was clutch after the full-time whistle, forcing a turnover and allowing Gayle Broughton to kick the ball into touch.
The result certainly too close for comfort for the New Zealand side, who were completely outplayed by Great Britain in the first half. Nathan-Wong said it was their own mistakes that let them down.
“If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score and that is something we will clean up going into the next game tomorrow.”
“I don’t think it [the ball] was too slippery, but it is pretty sweaty out there. But maybe it was a slight lapse in focus and those girls would have felt it out there, but we are such a good team we pick each other up.”
Earlier in the day, they got their Olympics campaign underway with a 29-7 victory over Kenya. It was fairly smooth sailing for the Kiwis and a good chance to blow out the cobwebs. Stacey Fluhler opened the scoring in the first minute, before Blyde and Portia Woodman crossed in quick succession.
Kenya were gutsy and clawed their way back to score just before half time, but a second to Blyde and a classy try to Broughton sealed the victory.
New Zealand take on ROC in their final pool match tomorrow at 2.30pm NZT.
Day One results
New Zealand Women 29 (Stacey Fluhler, Michaela Blyde 2, Portia Woodman, Gayle Broughton tries; Tyla Nathan-Wong 2 con) Kenya 7 (Christabel Tata try; Grace Okulu con) HT: 17-7
New Zealand Women 26 (Michaela Blyde 3, Tyla Nathan-Wong tries; Nathan-Wong 3 con) Great Britain 21 (Helena Rowland, Megan Jones, Jasmine Joyce tries; Holly Aitchison 3 con)
Day Two fixtures (Friday 30 July)
New Zealand Women v ROC at 2.30pm NZT
Quarterfinals from 8.30pm NZT