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NZ women close in on Australia at Sevens

Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

Lynn McConnell     22 Apr 2018     Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

They had a close scrape in their semi-final before beating Australia 17-12 and then faced France, making their first finals appearance.

New Zealand fought hard to win 24-12 and moved to second on the season's points table.

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Australia remain on top with 56 points while New Zealand have 50 with Russia on 42, France on 40 while Canada and Spain each have 32. The next round in the series is next month in Canada with the final round in Paris in June.

Tyla Nathan-Wong, who was named player of the final, said it had been an amazing few weeks for the side. They had overcome some adversity they had suffered and everyone had contributed to the effort.

"The competition has stepped up. Spain beating Aussie yesterday, and coming through to semifinals, and China even making the top eight. It just shows how amazing women's rugby is and the growth of it," she said.

New Zealand struck first in the final, 38 seconds after the start when Michaela Blyde put her speed to use to score beneath the posts.

France reacted nervously, several times creating chances but turning ball over, while on one occasion New Zealand wing Portia Woodman pulled off two key tackles in the one France breakout in which captain Fanny Horta looked a chance to score.

Then, when Blyde was penalised in a tackle, France took the tap and made good ground and it was the greatest try scorer in French women's sevens Camille Cassineau who scored the try that saw the scores levelled.

However, France's restart failed to go 10metres so New Zealand, with 35 seconds of the half left, had Commonwealth Games heroine Kelly Brazier work a switch move with Theresa Fitzpatrick and she raced through a gap to get the lead again.
But early in the second half while pressuring the French around their own 22m area, Gayle Broughton was ruled to have slapped a French pass down and was sin-binned. France took their chance and when another penalty was awarded they kicked to the corner and it was Montserrat Amedee who brought France level again.

New Zealand looked to work the ball from the restart and it was captain Sarah Goss who held the ball well before releasing it on the right flank to Portia Woodman in the perfect position to put her outside swerve to use to round her marker and race 70m challenged for a key try, the 171st of her career.

Then, into the last minute Nathan-Wong opted to kick deep behind the French defence and she had the speed to race through, tap the ball on to make the match-winning touchdown for the win.

Earlier, they needed to work hard to beat Australia. Evania Pelite beat Nathan-Wong to open the scoring and then Alicia Quirk worked a scissors move with Emma Tonegato for Australia to take a 12-0 lead.

Coming on as a replacement just before halftime, Broughton was on the receiving end of an offload and she raced 60m to allow New Zealand to be down only 5-12 at the turn.

Goss' turnover provided good ball and Blyde with a chance to pour on her pace was quickly through to pull the score back to 10-12.

Australia got back on attack through a strong run by Sarah Quirke but the ball was stolen and Nathan-Wong was able to score what proved the game breaker and added the conversion for a 17-12 win.

New Zealand easily accounted for China 50-0 in their quarterfinal with Blyde and Brazier scoring two tries each while Broughton, Shakira Baker, Goss and Tenika Willison also scoring.