Black Ferns golden win against France banishes Olympic sevens heartbreak

Sevens Black Fern Michaela Blyde with France's Camille Grassineau in Tokyo
Sevens Black Fern Michaela Blyde ahead of France's Camille Grassineau as she scores the opening try of their Olympic sevens gold medal final at Tokyo Stadium today. Image: RNZ/Greg Baker/AFP

RNZ Pacific

The Black Ferns Sevens have beaten France 26-12 to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics after earlier today defeating Fiji in the semifinal, banishing the heartbreak of finishing second to Australia at the Rio Games five years ago.

Michaela Blyde, Gayle Broughton and Stacey Fluhler crossed in the first half to give New Zealand a 19-5 lead at the break with Tyla Nathan-Wong adding a fourth try early in the second spell to wrap up the win.

Fiji’s Fijianas earlier followed up their gold in the men’s competition with a bronze in the women’s event, defeating Britain 21-12 in the third-place play-off, having narrowly lost the pulsating semifinal against New Zealand.

New Zealand won the silver medal at the Olympics five years ago, and another silver in the men’s competition in Tokyo, but finally they have their gold as they lived up to their billing as top seeds in the competition.

They controlled possession from the kick-off of the final and got their reward when captain Sarah Hirini released the ball to speedy Blyde to score the opening try.

But France hit back through Caroline Drouin as she raced through an uncharacteristically large hole in the Black Ferns’ defence for an unconverted score.

New Zealand’s pace was creating space in wide areas, however, and Gayle Broughton managed to dive over in the corner, before Fluhler carved through the French defence to give her side a 19-5 halftime lead.

Anne-Cecile Ciofani kept France in the contest with a try after two minutes of the second half, but New Zealand restored their 14-point advantage when Nathan-Wong crossed between the posts.

The Black Ferns women's sevens team and the French team stand for the anthems at the Tokyo Olympics, 31 July 2021
The Black Ferns women’s sevens team and the French team stand for the anthems before their gold medal final at the Tokyo Olympics today. Image: Kenji Demura/Photosport

Fiji struck first
Fiji struck first in the bronze-medal match when Alowesi Nakoci crossed under the posts early before they soaked up pressure inside their own 22 from Britain for a full four minutes with some excellent defence.

When the Pacific islanders were finally able to break out with quick hands on the right wing, Nakoci raced in for a second score, before Megan Jones dotted down for Britain to make it 14-5.

The game was made safe for Fiji when Reapi Ulunisau burst through a gap in the Britain defence and streaked away for a try, though Jones grabbed her second to reduce the deficit to nine points.

France had earlier beaten Fiji 12-5 in the pool matches.

Fiji's Fijiana sevens team
Fiji’s Fijiana sevens team … Tokyo Olympic bronze medal after beating Britain. Image: 24News

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

A superb BBC interview with Black Ferns’ Ruby Tui.

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