Australia claimed the first ever gold medal at the Olympics in rugby sevens, with a superb performance against finalists New Zealand. The Wallabies were the number one seeds and they just had the edge over their neighbours in a 24-17 victory in Rio.
With the score at 5-5 and half-time looming, New Zealand’s Portia Woodman was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on, and it was then when Australia struck. Evania Pelite was free on the overlap as she put the Aussies 10-5 up in the last play of the first half, and that score proved crucial.
They struck again early in the second period with Ellia Green finishing off a great move; it was then a long way back for the Black Fearns. Player of the Tournament, Charlotte Caslick, added another, taking a tapped penalty and then beating her defender for pace to seal the victory.
There was still time for a late rally by New Zealand, scoring two tries in the last two minutes, but it was too little too late as they had to settle for a silver medal.
Team GB had been defeated by the Kiwis earlier in the day in the semi-final, 25-7, and for the first time in the tournament it looked like the occasion had got to them. The British team needed to gear themselves up against third seeds Canada in the bronze medal match, a side they defeated 22-0 in the group stage. But, once again, the pressure got to the British girls, with some lackadaisical defending.
After a slow start, Danielle Waterman’s try brought Britain back to within touching distance at 7-5, but that was the closest they came all match. Woman of the Match Ghislane Landry went over to extend Canada’s lead to 14-5, and then a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on from captain Emily Scarratt took the game away from Great Britain. Canada went over twice during the two minute sin bin and from there was no way back for Britain. The Welsh speedster Jasmine Joyce pulled one back for GB, but Canada had the last word as Landry once again found a hole in the defence. Canada ran out handsome winners at 33-10.
The tournament has been a superb advertisement for the game of rugby, and it will now be at the Olympics for the foreseeable future. The men’s tournament gets underway on Tuesday, and hopefully the British men will rise to the occasion unlike the women.