Sevens blackwash in Singapore

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The Black Ferns Sevens won the SVNS League title for the eighth time defeating Australia 31-21 in an exhilarating Cup final.

The All Blacks Sevens foiled the emerging force of Ireland 17-14 in an equally gripping climax. 

Black Ferns Sevens

Tied in the series standings on 106 points each, the Singapore final would decide the fate of the League title.

New Zealand was down 14-12 at halftime but some heroic play by Jorja Miller turned the tide black. 

Upon the resumption, Isabella Nasser busted for Australia and galloped into space. Nasser was rundown by Miller who wrenched a turnover near halfway and set Tysha Ikenasio free down the right wing. Ikenasio was caught by Kaitlin Shave agonisingly short of the paint. Thressa Setefano skidded a pass across the grass and Michaela Blyde collected calmly and unmarked to complete a hat-trick. Australia was short of numbers in the backline after captain Madison Ashby was stranded on halfway, and was forced to leave the field injured.

Blyde holds the record for most SVNS final hattricks with six and finished the regular season as the Black Ferns leading try scorer with 52. Blyde left the field exhausted shortly afterward. She had rushed 80 metres for the opening try and sprinted 50 metres just before the interval after Miller had offloaded in the grasp of the defence to space.

Australia had scored twice after Blyde’s initial strike with Maddison Levi going coast to coast and Nasser tumbling over with momentum after an ankle tap by Miller who’d saved a try with an act of desperation seconds earlier.

Miller became rampant at 19-14, turning provider twice more. Portia Woodman-Wickliffe powered clear from a deft Miller touch. Woodman-Wickliffe was tackled bravely by a retreating Faith Nathan just before the line, but Woodman-Wickliffe bounced back to her feet and couldn’t be stopped. Woodman has scored a record 36 tries in SVNS finals. Blyde has 32 with Australia’s Charlotte Caslick next with 13.

It was Waaka, who had the last say with her 99th SVNS try, a barging run and lob over the top by Miller had Waaka beaming.

New Zealand had to win the last four tournaments to prevent Australia from winning their fourth SVNS League title. 

In the 2023-24 season, New Zealand had 36 wins and scored 192 tries. Australia had 34 wins and scored 185 tries. Maddison Levi scored 56 tries.

Dual international Tyla King, and fellow Olympic gold medallist Shiray Kaka had been ruled out injured earlier in the tournament. New Zealand remained unblemished against Fiji in the semis. Combined they have won 69 of 71 matches against Ireland, Spain, and Canada.  

Singapore made its Women’s SVNS debut, becoming the 15th different country to host a women's SVNS tournament. This is the fourth different location in Asia after Kitakyushu (2017-19), Guangzhou (2013-14) and Hong Kong (2023-24). 

New Zealand has won seven of the eight SVNS events in Asia, with two Cup titles in Guangzhou, two in Hong Kong, and two in Kitakyushu. Only Canada in Kitakyushu in 2019 has denied them a clean sweep of all tournaments on the continent.

Black Ferns Scoring

Pool Play: Black Ferns Sevens: 31 (Blyde 2, Miller, Pouri-Lane, Paul tries; Pouri-Lane 2 & Blyde conversion) Canada: 7 (Piper Logan try; Chloe Daniels conversion)

Pool Play: Black Ferns Sevens: 31 (Miller, Woodman-Wickliffe, Waaka, Blyde, Kaka tries; King 2 & Pouri-Lane conversions) Ireland: 12 (Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins tries; Higgins conversion)

Pool Play: Black Ferns Sevens: 38 (Ikenasio 2, Saili, Miller, Waaka, Blyde tries; King 3 & Pouri-Lane conversions) Spain: 7 (Jimena Blanco-Hortiguera, Juana Pedrero try; Stella conversion)

QF: Black Ferns Sevens: 24 (Pouri-Lane 2, Setefano, Miller tries; King & Pouri-Lane conversions) Great Britain: 5 (Ellie Boatman try) 

SF: Black Ferns Sevens: 33 (Waaka, Miller, Blyde 2, Pouri-Lane; Pouri-Lane 3 conversions) Fiji: 22 (Raijieli Daveua, Ilisapeci Delaiwau 2, Laisana Likuceva tries; Ana Maria Naimasi con 

GF: Black Ferns Sevens: (Blyde 3, Woodman-Wickliffe, Waaka tries; Pouri-Lane 3 conversions) Australia: 21 (Maddison Levi 2, Isabella Nasser tries; Tia Hinds 2 & Dominique Du Toit conversions)

All Blacks Sevens

In the first five tournaments of the 2023-24 SVNS, the All Blacks Sevens had a substandard 13-13 record. Wins in Hong Kong and Singapore to rise to third in the overall league standings suggest the Olympic campaign is back on target.

But Singapore's success was far from easy. New Zealand was punished by Argentina 5-33 on the first day. The Pumas have only beaten New Zealand 16 times in 100 matches, but six of those victories have come since 2019.

The decider against Ireland was akin to the epic fifteen aside 2023 Rugby Cup quarter-final in October.

Seeking their first SVNS Cup title, Ireland was down 17-14 when New Zealand fumbled inside the 22 with less than a minute remaining. Ireland stretched both touchlines but were eventually isolated at a ruck, and Tone Ng Shiu had his Sam Whitelock moment. 

New Zealand never trailed in the decider, an explosive start was a critical difference. Leroy Carter spotted space down the short side and Ireland’s fastest player Terry Kennedy couldn’t stay with the Bay of Plenty flyer in a 60-metre purist. 

Fehi Fineanganofo is becoming a brutal presence, and his uncompromising refusal to stay tackled led to New Zealand’s second try when he executed a ‘down and up’ that would have been rehearsed several times in training. 

Ireland is patient, and one of the best teams at holding the ball for sustained periods. Every player in the roster handled before Kennedy bounced to Gavin Mullin. 

Ireland has never beaten New Zealand from behind at halftime. That trend looked set to continue when inspirational captain and final MVP Dylan Collier fooled everybody with a dummy to cut through. Collier has scored 76 tries in 54 SVNS tournaments. 

Ireland refused to wilt and Harry McNulty emulated Collier with trickery of his own. 

Andrew Knewstubb was phenomenal on defence for New Zealand. Singapore is the site where his horrendous two-year injury ordeal started. 

The All Blacks Sevens success is their 69th SVNS Cup final victory. New Zealand is the first country to successfully defend the Singapore title.

“Yeah nah it was awesome. We had a rough first day but came back good," Collier said with laconic modesty.

Since becoming a core team four seasons ago, Ireland has finished 10th in 2020, sixth in 2021, fifth in 2022, ninth in 2023, and second this season. Ireland was third in three events and second in Singapore. Billy Dardis had kicked a penalty to break a 12-12 tie with Great Britain in the semis. Great Britain had dropped the ball over the try line with less than a minute remaining.

Earlier New Zealand won their 111th semi-final (159 matches) against Australia 28-12. Australia preserved possession for 150 seconds before captain Nick Malouf fired a bullet pass to the wing of Nathan Lawson who scored his fifth try of the weekend.

There was no panic from the All Blacks Sevens. A knock-on by Australia saw the ball rapidly shift and Kitiona Vai sprinted 55-metres. Vai didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend following a long injury.

Carter is back following injury too. His zest and precision added a notable spark. Just before halftime, New Zealand took the lead, when Fehi Fineanganofo detached from a scrum and wrapped around Carter to bust through and dot down under the sticks.

Vai fended through for the first strike of the second half. Knewstubb made it 21-7 with his second sideline conversion. 

Detrich Roach pulled one back for Australia but when Knewstubb smashed Lawson to force a turnover the Aussies had a mountain to climb at 21-12. Brady Rush applied the icing; set up by Kitiona’s brother, Cody Vai. 

Argentina was crowned SVNS League winners securing enough points to resist Ireland with a fifth-place finish. In the playoff for fifth, Argentina was down 10-0 but rallied to win 14-10. The last try was scored in the final minute when South Africa conceded a turnover five metres short of the line and Tobias Wade picked up the ball and went over unopposed.

The Pumas won three of the seven events in Cape Town (Australia, 45-12), Perth (Australia, 31-5), and Vancouver (New Zealand, 36-12). They won 32 of 39 matches and are the sixth country after New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Samoa, and Fiji to win the league.

The Top Eight Grand Final for men and women will be held in Madrid from May 31 to June 2. The teams placed between nine–twelve will compete in a promotion/relegation-style event with other teams to decide which stay as core teams.

The Olympics are in Paris from July 24 to 30.

All Blacks Sevens Results

Pool Play: All Blacks Sevens: 22 (K Vai 2, Ng Shiu tries; penalty try) Canada: 17 (David Richard 2, Phil Berna tries; Brock Webster conversion)

Pool Play: All Blacks Sevens 5 (Ware try) Argentina: 33 (Rodrigo Isgro, German Schulz, Tomas Elizalde tries; Santiago Mare 2 & Tobias Wade 2 conversions) 

Pool Play: All Blacks Sevens: 26 (Leo 2, Fineanganofo, Collier tries; Cook Savage 3 conversions) Australia: 10 (Nathan Lawson, Henry Palmer tries)

QF: All Blacks Sevens: 19 (Ware, Fineanganofo, Ng Shiu tries; Cook-Savage & McGarvey-Black conversions) USA: 14 (Kevon Williams, Adam Channel tries; Madison Tomasin & Madison Hughes conversion)

SF: All Blacks Sevens: 28 (K Vai 2, Rush, Fineanganofo tries; Knewstubb 4 conversions) Australia: 12 (Nathan Lawson, Detrich Roach; Roach conversion)

GF: All Blacks Sevens: All Blacks Sevens: 17 (Carter, Fineanganofo, Collier tries; Knewstubb conversion) Ireland: 14 (Gavin Mullin, Harry McNulty tries; Billy Dardis & Mark Roche conversions)


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