Black Ferns Sevens finish on a high note in Perth
The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens have finished the Perth Sevens on a high note with wins in their respective playoff matches.
The All Blacks Sevens won their second close encounter with Samoa (21-14) to earn ninth. The Black Ferns Sevens rallied from ten points down to topple France 14-10 and finish fifth.
The men's cup final was won by Argentina who trounced hosts Australia 31-7 in the final. Marcos Moneta scored two tries as the Pumas won their second consecutive tournament.
In the women's cup final, there was a boilover with Ireland upsetting Australia 19-14. It was Ireland’s first victory in 29 matches against Australia. Eve Higgins scored the winning try with a minute to spare.
The Black Ferns Sevens were in a precarious position with only four minutes left against France. Down 10-0, a yellow card to Ian Jason for a high tackle provided a lifeline.
A minute later captain Risi Pouri-Lane muscled an offload to an unmarked Manaia Nuku who dashed clear and dotted down under the sticks helping cut the deficit to three.
Nuku has matured greatly in the past year. In the 2023 USA Premier Rugby Sevens she was named Defensive Player of the Year. It would be her attacking prowess that shone brightest in Perth. With a minute left, she delivered an offload in congestion to Kelsey Teneti with a clear 40-metre sprint to the line.
Earlier the Black Ferns Sevens had a case of the fumbles, rattled by aggressive French defense. It took five minutes for any scoring. Camille Grassineua scored her 91st series try escaping the grasp of the Black Ferns Sevens after a clever switch in direction at halfway.
Joanna Grisez played a blinder for France. In the first half, she ran down Jazmin Felix-Hotham to deny New Zealand a certain try. She then created a try for Caroline Drouin.
Nuku and Teneti haven’t seen a lot of minutes but made the most of their opportunities. Pouri-Lane held her nerve and delivered when it most counted.
With 30 seconds remaining the All Blacks Sevens and Samoa appeared destined for a second extra-time contest of the weekend.
Scores were tied 14-14 when Tim Mikkelson roamed across the field and approached the Samoan wall. With a swift dummy, he opened a hole in the defense and gleefully burst 40 metres for the match-winner. The 37-year-old has scored 240 series tries.
Earlier it was a clumsy and brutal opening. Samoa had the first say when Elisapeta Alofipo chipped ahead and was the first to collect the bounce.
The All Blacks Sevens responded when Sam Dickson poached a turnover just outside his 22. Aukuila Roklolisa offloaded to Leroy Carter who drew in three defenders and threw a 20-metre pass to Regan Ware on the right wing. It was 7-7 at halftime.
Aukuila Roklolisa was the first to strike with a trademark solo break after the interval. However, Samoa's abrasive tackling and calculated kicks were causing the All Blacks Sevens concern.
Dickson was yellow-carded when he tackled a Samoan player without the ball in retreat.
A turnover exposed the lack of numbers. Following three passes Faafoi Falaniko scored.
The Black Ferns Sevens are second in the SVNS standings after three rounds with 46 points, a dozen points adrift of Australia. The All Blacks Sevens are sixth in the men’s standings with 32 points. Argentina are leader with 58.
The next SVNS event is in Vancouver from February 23 to 25.