New Zealand make mark at the Atlanta Sevens
With the ice and snow cleared from the field, the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team went through the opening day of the Atlanta Sevens unbeaten today.
Wins over the Netherlands, Ireland and England have set up a quarterfinal showdown with Japan, which came through Pool C with two wins, over Spain and Brazil.
Fine weather arrived in Atlanta on Friday, allowing for the Fifth-Third Bank Stadium field to be cleared of ice and snow, and making sure the tournament would go ahead.
With roads open and teams able to get to the ground, the ballroom training New Zealand had been through in their hotel was put into practice on the field.
Playing the Netherlands first up, Kayla McAlister gave her team a halftime lead with a late try, after New Zealand had made a slow start.
Debutant Michaela Blyde made her first start in the match, and capped it with a debut try a minute into the second half, before Portia Woodman rounded out the scoring with a late try for the 21-0 win.
Fellow debutants Jordon Webber and Gayle Broughton made their first starts in the second match against Ireland, and it didn’t take Broughton long to make her mark in the 36-7 victory.
She crossed for her first try after three minutes to give New Zealand the lead, followed by tries to Manawatu standout Selica Winiata and Woodman.
Winiata, Sarah Goss and Blyde scored second half tries, before Ireland’s Nicole Caughey scored a late consolation.
In the final match of the day against defending USA Sevens champions England, Carla Hohepa sent New Zealand into the break with a 7-0 lead with a late try.
England replied four minutes into the second half through Danielle Waterman, however Sarah McKenna missed the conversion.
Up stepped 17-year-old Broughton with a minute to play, running away from the English defence to score under the posts and seal the game for her team.
The 14-5 win ensured New Zealand won Pool B, and play Japan in the quarterfinal. The winner of that match will play either Russia or Spain in the semifinal.
New Zealand coach Sean Horan said his team got better throughout the day, and was impressed with his debutants.
‘‘Jordon Webber, coming from Go4Gold and being in the wilderness for a year and coming back. She’s pretty intelligent as a good young rugby player, and is really eager to learn and a quick learner.
‘‘The other two young girls from Taranaki, we’ve always known they’ve got a superb skill level. I think it was a real eye opener for them in those first two games for how intense this game is, and how big the other athletes are.
‘‘Just in that last game where Gayle Broughton was simply outstanding with that solo try. We know how good she is, but to see it on the world stage it’s kind of, welcome to the World Series.’’
With the high only 8 degrees Celsius on the first day, temperatures are expected to rise to about 13 degrees tomorrow.
New Zealand trail Australia in the World Series standings after the first round in Dubai.
- Fairfax Media