New Zealand’s Black Ferns sealed their status as the dominant force in women’s rugby on Saturday, successfully defending their World Cup Sevens crown less than a year after winning the 15-a-side title.
Michaela Blyde was the star for the New Zealanders with a brilliant hat-trick as France were crushed 29-0 in a one-sided final at AT&T Park. Blyde’s treble took her tally to the tournament to nine tries, crowning a superb weekend for the 22-year-old, the reigning women’s world sevens player of the year.
“To be able to do that in a rugby World Cup final is incredible, unforgettable,” said Blyde.
“But I wouldn’t be able to do it without the girls who are out on the field with me. They’re the workhorses who create the space on the outside for me to do what I do.”
The victory follows New Zealand’s victory in the women’s 15-a-side World Cup last year, as well as their gold medal in the Commonwealth Games sevens competition in April.
New Zealand are also the first team to win the back-to-back women’s World Sevens titles after their win in Moscow in 2013.
“We’ve made history now, so we’re pretty happy with ourselves,” Blyde said.
France, who had earlier stunned Olympic champions Australia to reach the final for the first time, were never in contention. Blyde opened the scoring in the final for New Zealand, who weathered some ferocious French tackling before cutting loose.
New Zealand captain Sarah Goss set up a second try for Portia Woodman before Tyla Nathan-Wong’s clever run made it 15-0 at the break.
Blyde added two more converted scores after the interval as New Zealand completed a superb campaign which saw them register three shutouts in four games.
Ireland finished sixth in the Championship, after losing 12-7 to Spain in the 5th place playoff.
Attention on Sunday will turn to the men’s competition, where New Zealand will also be bidding to retain their title.
The holders are likely to face a daunting semi-final battle with favourites Fiji however, who lit up day two with a 43-7 rout of Argentina in the quarter-finals. The Olympic champions produced a magical display full of guile and sevens sorcery on their way to running in seven tries.
“When a Fijian team gets that sort of momentum they’re very difficult to beat,” said Fiji’s satisfied coach Gareth Baber. “We’ve worked it well and the players have delivered what they needed to today.”
New Zealand, meanwhile, were anything but impressive as they scraped past France 12-7 to progress.
France, who had upset Australia in the previous round, led 7-0 at half-time before New Zealand recovered to win through tries from Kurt Baker and Joe Ravouvou.
“We’re pretty frustrated with the way we played, but knockout footy, who cares? We managed to find a way to win,” said New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw.
England will face top seeds South Africa in the last four after the Blitzboks trounced Scotland 36-5.
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)