The Black Ferns Sevens side have defeated Australia 21-17 in the final of the latest World Series Sevens tournament in Langford, Canada.
It is their fourth tournament win this season and confirms their qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
However, it was the Australians who opened the scoring, when Ellia Green ran 80 metres down the sideline to make the score 5-0 early.
The Black Ferns struck back with a beautiful try from Sarah Hirini, set up by Tyla Nathan-Wong running across the field and throwing a perfectly-timed inside ball which gave them the lead 7-5.
A crucial penalty with a minute and a half left in the half saw Nathan-Wong repeat the same drifting line, this time feeding Niall Williams for a try.
But while it looked like they’d take a comfortable lead into halftime, the Australians struck back through Emma Tonegato to close the gap to 14-10.
Nathan-Wong then got on the score sheet herself with an important try after the break. This time, Hirini was the provider with a powerful run and offload that sent Nathan-Wong on a 70 metre run to score and make it 21-10.
However, a bad error from Williams gave the ball straight to Green again to score under the posts, and it seemed as though the Australians would have one last shot at the game with time running out.
The Black Ferns can count themselves lucky after the kickoff was adjudged to be knocked on by an Australian hand. However, the replays showed that the call was debatable at best.
Nevertheless, it meant all the Black Ferns had to do was kick the ball into touch and claim the win.
Black Ferns vs USA semi-final highlights (Source: FB).
The NZ team had earlier reached the final after beating the USA 26-12 in their semi-final.
They bounced back from their shock quarter final loss in last month’s tournament in Japan, which broke a 37-game undefeated streak. The team has gone through the tournament unbeaten, after comfortably beating Russia and China in their opening matches.
However, the Black Ferns had a much tougher assignment in their final pool match against a strong England team. They twice came from behind to win 12-10, thanks to tries from young star Alena Saili and captain Sarah Hirini.
IIt wasn’t all good news, though. Try-scoring machine Michaela Blyde was injured in the win against China- she returned with a heavily strapped leg for today’s knockout matches. The Black Ferns are already missing Portia Woodman, who has been out with injury all year.
After beating Spain 17-7 in the quarter-final, the Black Ferns faced the strong USA side in the semi. Things got off to a dramatic start, with USA captain Alex Kelter sent off after only a minute for a shocking off-the-ball tip tackle on Ruby Tui. The one-player advantage meant the Black Ferns’ were always going to be in charge, and veteran Kelly Brazier stepped up with three tries in the win.