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Sublime Blyde powers Black Ferns Sevens to LA Title

Sublime Blyde powers Black Ferns Sevens to LA Title

All BlacksMarch 5, 2024

The Black Ferns Sevens are back to their best winning two trophies in two weeks in North America.

Seven days after their breakthrough 2023-24 SVNS success in Vancouver, the Black Ferns Sevens swept aside Australia 29-14 in the Los Angeles Cup final to win their fifth US Sevens title and 34th Cup decider.

The Black Ferns Sevens have won a dozen games in a row. Michaela Blyde was on fire throughout with 12 tries in the tournament, including a hat-trick in the final.

The All Blacks Sevens finished 10th but the men’s series is more competitive than ever with wild results writing headlines.

Black Ferns Sevens

The final started in the worst possible fashion for New Zealand when Jorja Miller collapsed injured in the opening minute and was forced from the field.

The setback seemed to add further fuel to New Zealand’s steel. Australia was muscled backward by furious tackling and Blyde scored a try with her first touch of the ball fending off Faith Nathan.

Australia was patient with their next possession and eventually Sharni Smale, in her 50th SVNS tournament, found a hole and carried deep inside New Zealand’s half. Swift ruck ball saw Charlotte Caslick canter over for her 175th SVNS try. Australia converted and took the lead 7-5.

Maddison Levi is a talisman for Australia, but she was humbled by Blyde when the smaller Taranaki pocket rocket pushed her off and sprinted 85 metres for her second try. Levi was then yellow carded for a head-high tackle as New Zealand turned with a 12-7 advantage at halftime.

It was a turnover from Risi Pouri-Lane that created New Zealand’s first try. The skipper would score the Black Ferns third capitalising on Australia’s shortage of numbers.

Portia Woodman-Wickliffe missed the quarter-final with a bruised calf. There were no signs of pain in the final, her bullying runs a nightmare for Australia. Woodman-Wickliffe scored the Black Ferns Sevens fourth try with a trademark display of power and it was suddenly 22-7.

Levi is the leading try scorer this season with 38. She went 85 metres fooling New Zealand with a quick switch. It was 22-14 with 2:30 left.

Anything Levi could do, Blyde did it better though. Her last try was like so many she’s scored. A pint of space on the left wing, and a forlorn defender grasping at oxygen before they can blink.

Blyde was typically humble after the victory which reduced the gap to Australia on the overall SVNS standings to just four points with Hong Kong and Madrid to play.

“So proud of the girls, we’ve been looking for that kind of consistency for the whole season so doing what we’ve done over the last two weeks is massive.

“It’s really hard being at the top but we're loving the target on our backs.”

The Black Ferns Sevens lead Australia 17-7 all-time in Cup finals.

A familiar sight for us...

A familiar feeling for @nz_sevens 🏆🇳🇿#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSLAX pic.twitter.com/FZOfyAwUfY

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) March 4, 2024

The Black Ferns Sevens were in sumptuous form en route to the decider eliminating Perth champions Ireland 36-12 and Canada 31-12.  

Against Ireland a second Miller try on halftime broke spirted resistance. Ireland had only trailed by three when the highland dancer from Canterbury escaped the defense. Blyde (2) and Kelsey Teneti (2) also scored in the resounding victory.

Canada hasn’t been to a Cup final in 19 tournaments and after five minutes that record stayed intact as the Black Ferns Sevens led 19-0.

Blyde fended off half the team to score first. Containing Woodman-Wickliffe was like trying to keep a grip on a greasy pole. She scored the second try beating a would-be defender on halfway. She was even more imperious in New Zealand’s next attacking foray piggybacking three defenders within a few metres of the line before recycling quickly to Miller who bounce-passed to an unmarked Shiray Kaka. Woodman-Wickliffe would cross again in the second half along with Pouri Lane.

Sophie De Goede is Canada’s fifteens captain. The loose forward is one of the best players in the world and has made a successful transition to sevens. In Vancouver, she finished as the top individual tackler. In LA she delivered the most offloads and against New Zealand scored two tries. Her first was a display of brute force catching out a smaller Tyla King. Her second was from a ruck turnover close to the line. 

All Blacks Sevens

The All Blacks Sevens finished 10th after losing to Samoa 10-5 in a consolation playoff. Only three points were gained in the SVNS standings which means a drop from fourth to sixth in the overall series standings.

The playoff for ninth was a tight tussle that was tied five apiece at halftime. The winning try was scored after a sustained, often lateral attack, by Elisapeta Alofipo with three minutes to go. It was his second try of the match and his 47th in SVNS. Alofipo played for Samoa against the Māori All Blacks in 2021

Amanaki Nicole scored the All Blacks Sevens' solitary try. He was contracted in 2018 after a strong display for Canterbury at Nationals. He played six games for Southland in the NPC. In 22 tournaments for New Zealand, he has scored 105 points.

France won their first Cup final since 2005 defeating Great Britain 21-0. France had lost to Fiji 10-14 in pool play. Superstar fifteens convert Antoine Dupont was influential. France scored 21 tries with Dupont contributing three tries and three assists.

Historically, Great Britain was represented by England (1993 World Champions, 19 SVNS tournament wins) Scotland, and Wales (2009 World Champions) but the inclusion of sevens at the Olympics and European Games, together with funding issues has resulted in the formation of a permanent combined team from 2023. They have made two finals and lost both.

Series leaders Argentina had their winning streak stopped at 18 by Ireland in the quarters. The Pumas beat Fiji 26-21 to finish fifth and stay 17 points ahead of Ireland atop of the overall standings.

Reigning supreme 🇳🇿🏆

Congratulations to @nz_sevens on a dominant win at #HSBCSVNSLAX 🔥#HSBCSVNS pic.twitter.com/fgYGPpoxJx

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) March 4, 2024

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