New Zealand women's sevens get Olympic revenge with world series title
New Zealand are the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series champions after taking out the final tournament in France.
The team secured the world title after beating hosts France in the semifinal 21-7, before rounding out their series win with an emphatic 22-7 win over Australia in the tournament final in Clermont-Ferrand.
They finished the series with 116 points after winning five of the six tournaments, with Australia 16 points back in second. They lost just one of their 36 matches this season, to the United States in the Sydney Sevens semifinals.
Les Championnes et le fameux Haka ! C'est terminé pour cette année ! Rendez-vous en 2018 ! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/BB3QLcEfCf— Clermont7s (@clermont7s) June 25, 2017
*NZ women's sevens into quarters
It was the fourth title for New Zealand since the series began in 2012.
New Zealand lost to Australia in last year's Rio Olympics gold medal match and captain Tyla Nathan-Wong said the world series title would help ease that hurt.
"It means so much. Finishing so close to getting that gold against Aussie - they played well in that Olympic final - but this season we really stepped up and really brought it to them and it shows. Five from six and now world series champions."
Nathan-Wong paid tribute to all the players in the wider squad who have contributed during the series, which began in Dubai in December 2016.
"It shows just how much heart and mana these girls have, not only here but at home, all the girls that have pushed each other. We've worked really hard this season and it's not just been the 14 here, it's been the whole squad and the management too.
"It's been an amazing culture and an amazing season."
The Clermont-Ferrand final on Monday morning (NZ time) was a tight affair in the first half. Ruby Tui grabbed the opening try in the first minute, but Australia hit back through Shannon Parry four minutes later.
An unconverted try to Niall Williams gave New Zealand a 12-7 head at halftime before they kicked clear in the second half, holding the Australians scoreless and getting two more tries to Michaela Blyde and Shakira Baker.
It was Blyde's 40th try of the season, which saw her win the series try-scoring title, with the United States' Naya Tapper eight tries behind her in second. That effort was enough to see her awarded the Player of the Season.
"For me personally, I think it's been my favourite season of all time," Blyde said.
"It's been a long five years and I've enjoyed every season, but this one especially the most."
Joining Blyde in the series "Dream Team" were team-mates Ruby Tui and Portia Woodman.
New Zealand's coach Allan Bunting said it was a special group of players who contributed to their success.
"The ladies have been top quality all season and it wasn't enough for us to win the series, we wanted to win the round too. Now we're looking ahead to next year – we've got the World Cup and qualifying for the Olympics to do."