A smile barely left Portia Woodman's face all weekend long at the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens, whether on the pitch as she ran in tries from anywhere or off it as she signed swathes of autographs for Japanese fans young and old, even the odd one or two on the backs of mobile phones!

The Black Ferns Sevens star was at her scintillating best in the first HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series round in Japan, repeatedly stepping off either foot to bemuse opponents or turning on the afterburners to leave them clutching at thin air.

Distance was also no barrier for the former World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year as at least two of her seven tries at the Mikuni World Stadium came from within her own 22, including one in the Cup final where she just sprinted around and away from the Canadian team to keep New Zealand in the hunt for a third title from four rounds this season.


Any of her tries would have been a fitting inclusion in the seven of the best tries video from the weekend, not least the one from the restart against Fijiana in the semi-final when she came to a virtual stop to ensure the kick went 10 metres before an instant exceleration took her through the defence to score.

She may not have scored the title-winning try in the corner – that honour being Michaela Blyde's – but it was Woodman who was named HSBC Player of the Final after New Zealand's 17-14 win over Canada increased their cushion at the top of the standings over Australia to 10 points with two rounds remaining.

Time conquerors all

The Canadians had been the in-form team to that point, posting record victories over Russia and Australia on day two and coming within touching distance of a win that would have secured back-to-back titles for their country after the men's team's historic success in Singapore the previous weekend.

It wasn't to be for Canada, but Woodman and her team-mates knew they had been in one hell of a battle to get their hands on the trophy.

“I feel really lucky to receive that award because it was such a team effort and I think the reason why I got that try was because of the team,” Woodman said afterwards. “It is always going to be like that but really stoked to win the final because Canada were such a top side today. They hadn't conceded any points until this game so it was such an awesome final from both sides. 

“I think we have been training pretty hard at home and we have learnt that it is not just going to be in the first two minutes of the game that we are going to get points on, so just learning that it is going to take time and it doesn't matter if it happens in the last minute, like we have done twice this tournament, but we are going to overcome it. I think we just showed a lot of heart too.

“There are no easy games anymore and that is exciting for the sport, challenging for us as it just means we have so much more to work on when we go home but it is exciting. I think we played well, we worked through the tournament and the result was that final game.”

The series continues with the penultimate round in Langford, Canada, on 27-28 May.