A new sevens star is born in Broughton

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014

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Most 17 year olds are busy giving their parents nightmares, rather than leaving opposing countries with a case of the cold sweats.

The vicious side-step, that rapid acceleration, a deceiving dummy pass, Gayle Broughton gives defenders a headache when she steps onto a sevens field.

Having made a statement at the national sevens tournament in January, Broughton was called into the New Zealand Women's Sevens squad for their recent tour to the Americas alongside fellow debutants Michaela Blyde and Jordon Webber.

Teams are already planning their defensive duties around stopping Broughton getting the ball, much the same way as they did last season with Kayla McAlister and Portia Woodman.

She's that good.

"It's pretty obvious that we have an amazing talent on our hands," New Zealand coach Sean Horan said.

"We had three debutants on our tour, and we've got to be happy with how they played and their development.

"Gayle was brilliant at times. We've got to work on helping her handle that pressure of international rugby, and make sure she doesn't burn out."

At the Atlanta Sevens tournament Broughton announced herself in the final pool match against England, taking the ball the length of the field to score a try.

Her step and dummy combined to leave two defenders on the floor, and then the pace took over as she sprinted home for the score.

In basketball you call it an ankle breaker. Each tournament Broughton could fill her own ESPN segment with the number of defenders she's left grounded and crawling after her.

It was the same recipe for success in the Atlanta final, with the poor Canadian defenders resembling road cones as Broughton danced through what looked like a stagnant defence.

After losing to Australia in the final of the Sao Paulo Sevens on Sunday, New Zealand were headed off to be taught samba dancing by the locals. Broughton would have been a natural, no doubt, having been dancing her way through defensive lines all weekend.

In that final against Australia, Broughton took the field with about six minutes remaining and trailing 17-0. Instantly the Australians were pushed onto the back foot.

Broughton had scored within a minute, helped set up Woodman a minute later, and all of a sudden New Zealand were within striking distance of a stunning final comeback.

It wasn't to be, but Broughton put teams on further notice.

This was an Australian team swarming to stop her receiving the ball.

When they failed, she was making them pay, adding the Sonny Bill-style offload to her repertoire, and giving her team-mates space to move.

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Horan is well aware of how other teams see Broughton only two tournaments into her sevens career, and said she would find it tougher next time she takes the field.

"You've seen it already, with the defences trying to focus their energy on her," he said.

"The same thing happened to Portia and Kayla last year. They started really well, and teams were quick to try to slow them down.

"It's started already for Gayle, she's caught everyone by surprise.

"What we need to remember is she is only 17, and you've got Michaela who is 18. They've got to be nurtured, and that's a long-term process."

Horan has a happy headache of sorts, having to decide how to use Broughton at the next tournament in China in April.

Her days as the team's super-sub could be numbered based on her performances in the United States and Brazil.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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