Stacey Waaka scored twice as New Zealand won the inaugural women's Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens title in a six-try, 26-17 thriller against Australia.
The twin touchdowns – one in each half – took her weekend total to eight. She would have had nine, to equal Australia’s Charlotte Caslick, but for a remarkable, last-gasp try-saving effort from Maddison Levi as she dived for the line.
Caslick’s ninth try also came in a final that covered every blade of grass in Hong Kong and the lead switched hands more than once.
Michaela Blyde also touched down for the Black Ferns Sevens, as their winning run extended to 30 Series matches, while Bienne Terita and Sariah Paki scored for Australia.
It was a showpiece match that a thoroughly entertaining weekend of rugby deserved, played in front of a large Hong Kong crowd ready and willing – as always – to party.
New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini said afterwards: “It’s pretty amazing to be here in Hong Kong for the first time – the home of sevens.
“I love playing Australia – they make us a better team, they’ve been amazing all season. It was a pretty scrappy game to be fair … we were just fortunate Stacey went over in the corner.”
Portia Woodman-Wickliffe had warned that there was more to come after they had beaten Fiji in a semi-final performance she said also ‘wasn’t perfect’.
“We’ve still plenty to work on before we get to the final,” she said after the 31-7 win that set them on collision course with Australia in the final.
Bronze final: Great Britain claim first medal
Isla Norman-Bell’s dramatic full-length diving touchdown more than two minutes after the gong had sounded saw Great Britain claim their first ever sevens medal – and it’s very useful Olympic qualification points – with a 22-19 v ictory at the end of a thriller against Fiji.
Ilisapeci Delaiwalu’s converted with seconds to go looked to have sealed third for Fiji. But a series of penalties from the restart led to Norman-Bell’s dive for glory. Even then, they had to wait while the referee checked with the TMO to make sure the ball was grounded.
Fiji had already come back from 10-0 at the end of the first half to take the lead 12-10 within a couple of minutes of the restart, courtesy of tries from Meredani Qoro and Viniana Riwai, before Jasmine Joyce’s second try of the game took Great Britain back into the lead.
In the semi-final, Joyce had scored Great Britain’s first-ever points against Australia – but it was already far too late, as Charlotte Caslick and her team-mates won 21-5.
Fifth for fortunate France
France made life hard for themselves in the fifth-place play-off against Canada.
Having lost their quarter-final against Great Britain in the dying seconds on Saturday, they raced into a 15-0 lead in their final outing of the weekend, thanks to one try from Lili Dezou and two from Carla Neisen.
But Krissy Scurfield’s dramatic try-saving tackle, and Piper Logan’s second-half double threatened to undo Les Bleues’ work, before replacement Chloe Jacquet scored the try that took the game beyond the Canadians’ reach.
Séraphine Okemba’s 90m race to the try-line on the gong had earlier earned them a place in the fifth-place play-off at the end of an entertaining semi-final against Ireland. Her touchdown ensured Les Bleues won 22-14.
Canada, meanwhile, earned their play-off place with a 14-7 win over USA, courtesy of a try and two conversions from the ever-reliable Olivia Apps.
Seventh place: USA edge tight play-off
USA claimed seventh place in a hard-fought play-off against Ireland, their 15-14 win earned thanks to a double from Ariana Ramsey, and Cheta Emba’s early try, which were just enough to offset Eve Higgins two converted tries.