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Black Ferns Sevens face USA challenge

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Lynn McConnell     02 Feb 2019     Getty Images

New Zealand gained their place after a hard-fought 17-7 win over Canada on Saturday.

Coach Allan Bunting said the game had been important for the side because Canada were closest to them on the points table so to eliminate them in the quarterfinal was important.
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New Zealand would be looking for more composure when having possession when they meet the United States on Sunday. They had turned ball over too easily at times.

"I thought we played really well to get through that one," he said.

The United States would bring their physicality to the semifinal but it was more about New Zealand being focused on their own game, recovering well and having a good sleep before Sunday's finale, Bunting said.

Strong Canadian defence denied New Zealand a scoring chance until midway through the first half.

Conceding two penalties in quick succession, the Canadians weren't quick to cover the ever-present danger provided by New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini who took a quick tap to charge downfield before passing to Theresa Fitzpatrick. She controlled the ball before passing inside to Ruby Tui who raced through for the opening try.

Canada responded when Bianca Farella couldn't find support on the right flank, only for New Zealand to tip the ball over the sideline. Canada won the lineout and Ghislaine Landry ran between Fitzpatrick and Gayle Broughton to provide her side's response.

More tough Canadian defence poured the pressure on New Zealand but Hirini again provided the leadership in a play which saw Tui run hard down the right flank and when the ball was moved from the breakdown, Broughton, Michaela Blyde and Tyla Nathan-Wong all did key work before Hirini was on hand to drive over for the key try just before halftime.

However, not only did Hirini take a knock to her ankle, although she came back on in the second half, Nathan-Wong had to be carried from the field after suffering an ankle injury.

Into the second half, Katarina Whata-Simpkins opted to use the kick to get the ball in behind the troublesome Canadian defence. Quick support play saw Broughton keep the ball alive before Blyde took the ball to the line where she unloaded to Fitzpatrick to score.

Canada kept trying but loss of the ball at key moments proved fatal and they were unable to get the points needed to pressure New Zealand at the end.

Shakira Baker said afterwards that it proved quite difficult for the side to get up for just one game on the day but they had prepared for that with a simulation day back in New Zealand.

"We were quite prepared and we knew what it was going to feel like and we managed to pull it off in the end."

Canada were second to New Zealand on the points table before the game and they knew they would be tough and the first half had been especially tight.

"In a quarterfinal you have to treat each game as a final and they definitely came out today. They put line pressure on us, it was slippery out there, there were a few dropped balls from both teams but they are always tough to play," she said.