Black Ferns Sevens gold banishes Olympic heartbreak

6:13 am on 1 August 2021

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

Gold Medal Winners New Zealand. Women's Gold Medal Match at the Rugby Sevens, Tokyo Stadium,  Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Saturday 31 July 2021.

Photo: Steve McArthur/Photosport Ltd 2021

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 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 a pulsating semi-final 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.

New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini after the women's sevens final at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan on Manday 31st July 2021.

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini. Photo: Kenji Demura/Photosport Ltd 2021

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

Photo: Photosport/Kenji Demura

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.

- Reuters