Black Ferns Sevens qualify for Paris 2024 Olympic Games
The Black Ferns Sevens have left Canada with a tournament win at the HSBC Vancouver Sevens and qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
They have now won 31 World Series titles and a fourth in a row in 2022-23 with the 19-12 victory over Australia in the Cup final.
The win, a typically gritty tussle with Australia, was made all the sweeter with qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Possession ebbed and flowed in the first half with New Zealand making the most of it initially scoring a try through skipper Sarah Hirini.
Australia rallied and Maddison Ashby wrong-footed Hirini to equalise. However, Hirini would have the last laugh in the first spell. Ten meters short of halfway she expertly attracted two defenders and lobbed an offload to an unmarked Stacey Waaka.
New Zealand extended their lead to 19-7 with a thrilling try at the start of the second half. Both sides of the field were explored but no holes were forthcoming. Eventually, Shiray Kaka was absolutely smashed by Ashby but bravely retained the ball with Hirini colossal at the breakdown. Space was found on the short side and Jorja Miller finished.
Australia refused to surrender and when champion Charlotte Caslick scored her 146th try in the World Series, the gap was only seven.
New Zealand was composed and resolute defensively with Hirini named player of the match.
The Black Ferns have won 24 matches in a row and lead Australia by 14 points in the overall standings with two events remaining.
The Black Ferns have won 33 of 35 matches against France and made light work of the Olympic finalists in the semis. A wicked right footstep by Stacy Waaka had two French defenders stumbling over each other and watching Waaka sprint 80 meters within a minute.
Waaka then set up Sarah Hirini who later broke 60 meters from her own goal line, a run that was the eventual catalyst for a strike by Tyla Nathan-Wong on halftime.
New Zealand didn’t let up in the second half with highlights long-range solo efforts from Michaela Blyde and Jazmin Felix-Hotham.
Captain Sarah Hirini said Olympic qualification has been the ambition since the start of the season.
“Our goal from the beginning of this season was to qualify for Paris 2024. While we have now qualified for the Olympics, our season hasn’t finished yet. As a team we want to keep building on what we have already achieved and continue our preparations for the Olympics next year.”
The All Black Sevens bounced back from their loss to Australia to finish fifth and collect 13 points to remain top of the World Series standings.
In their first match, they defeated Great Britain 19-5 scoring all their points in the first half and only conceding a try with the last play of the game.
Roderick Solo was in sparkling form playing a hand in all three tries. The Wellington flyer opened the scoring when he regathered his own chip kick and dashed 40 meters. He was then released wide right and skip-steeped the last defender to dot down for a second. New Zealand had a third on the halftime serin when Solo kept his feet in the presence of two defenders and set up Joe Webber.
In a case of Déjà vu, New Zealand put a half-century on the USA for the second time in the tournament in the fifth-place decider. Joe Webber scored a hat-trick to take his World Series try-tally to 98. Leroy Carter set the tone at the kick-off breaking 80 meters to score while debutant Fehi Fineanganofo scored a cracker when he swerved to the left to beat a defender and charge 70 meters.
Argentina won the tournament defeating France 33-21 in the Cup final. The Pumas are the biggest threat to New Zealand in the overall standings. They trail the All Blacks by 12 points with four events left.
The Hong Kong Sevens is the next event for both teams starting March 31.