New Zealand beat France 26-12 to win the women’s Olympic rugby sevens gold medal at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday as the top seeds finally achieved their Olympic dream after disappointment in the previous Olympic final at Rio 2016.
Following the medal ceremony the New Zealand players laid down their gold medals and performed a spine-tingling haka on the Tokyo Stadium pitch to bring down the curtain on a superb six days of Olympic rugby sevens action that has showcased the very best of the sport, which was making its second appearance on the Olympic programme.
Having lost the gold medal match to Australia five years ago, the Black Ferns Sevens had spoken about their desire to go one better in Tokyo, and captain Sarah Hirini helped give them the ideal start as she offloaded to Michaela Blyde who scored the first try of the final.
Gayle Broughton produced a stunning finish in the left corner before Stacey Fluhler went over in the final minute of the first half to give New Zealand a 19-5 lead at the break.
Anne-Cécile Ciofani scored her seventh try of the tournament to draw France within seven points early in the second half, but Tyla Nathan-Wong went over to make sure of the gold medal for New Zealand.
New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini said: “I think back to everything we’ve had to do to get to this moment, all the people back home who helped us, players who missed out but also trained hard. Everything people went through to win this, it’s pretty crazy and something you look at your teammates and think, we finally did it for New Zealand.
“We’re the best team in the world, we’ve got the best players in the world, and when you look around at that group it’s just, do your job and everything will happen. It did in that final.”
New Zealand’s Portia Woodman said: “Looking back on Rio, that emotion of scoring the last try but still not being able to win the game. Crying underneath the posts was one that I looked back on, but now it’s gone. Not when I look at this gold medal. When that whistle blew, I was elated with so much emotion, that left my mind. I looked at everyone on the field and had a real experience and feeling of happiness.
“Women’s rugby has been on the rise, not just in New Zealand, but across the world. Knowing I’ve hopefully inspired some of our girls, and even our boys look up to us, this is for rugby all across New Zealand, every kid who has aspired to be someone, looked up to someone, in every aspect of life.”
Despite defeat, France can be proud of their effort in winning the silver medal at Tokyo Stadium, having only qualified for the Games through the World Rugby Sevens Repechage last month and their place on the podium will boost interest in rugby sevens ahead of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 — World Rugby
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