Gayle Broughton's try with little more than 20 seconds left of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2019 Cup final against Canada saw New Zealand become the first women's team to go back-to-back at 7he Sevens Stadium.
The victory, backing up their 26-14 defeat of the same opponents in the 2018 title decider, has taken the defending champions to the top of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 standings, albeit only on points difference from Glendale winners USA.
Stacey Waaka, one of the Unstoppables in World Rugby's 'Try and Stop Us' campaign, opened the scoring in the second minute, but Canada hit back quickly when the defence opened up in front of Karen Paquin and she charged 60 metres to score and give her side a 7-5 lead.
Canada continued to pile the pressure on New Zealand, forcing an error from the Black Ferns Sevens in their own half and after earning a couple of penalties metres from the line they worked the ball wide for Julia Greenshields to score, just as she had in last year's final, for a 14-5 half-time lead.
HSBC Player of the Final Waaka scored her ninth try of the tournament early in the second half, sprinting away after Paquin had charged out of the defensive line to try and cut her off. Captain Tyla Nathan-Wong's conversion cut the deficit to just two points.
The score remained 14-12 for four minutes with Canada on the verge of only their second ever victory over New Zealand in 20 series meetings – and first since Sao Paulo in 2016 – until the Black Ferns Sevens worked Broughton over for the match-winning try.
Nathan-Wong, playing in her 26th series Cup final to equal her team-mate Sarah Hirini's record, said: “It’s incredible. It doesn’t matter who pulls this black jersey on, you’re always going to play with pride, mana and for yourself, your friends, your family – that name on your back and especially the fern, your country.”
USA beat Australia 24-7 to claim the bronze medal to avenge their loss at the same stage last year. Australia are now four points behind their conquerors in the series standings with 32 points, four more than Canada with France hot on their heels on 28.
England needed a sudden death try from Deborah Fleming to beat Ireland 26-21 in the ninth place play-off, while Brazil captain Raquel Kochhann's conversion off the post gave them a last-gasp 14-12 win over Japan to finish 11th.
The teams now move onto Cape Town for round three of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 next weekend, a new venue for the women's teams and the first back-to-back series events since the 2015-16 season.
USA WIN BRONZE
Twelve months ago Australia had edged USA in a tight battle for bronze, but this time around the Women's Sevens Eagles were just as dominant as they had been when the two sides met in the final of the opening round in Glendale in October. That day they triumphed 26-7 and it was a similar scoreline in Dubai, Alev Kelter scoring the first of their four tries that gave them a 24-0 lead before Faith Nathan ran in a consolation try for the Olympic champions.
The first semi-final was a repeat of the 2018 showdown which Canada won 15-10 and it was the North Americans who scored first, Cassie Staples catching Charity Williams only for the ball to be recycled for Kayla Moleschi to dot down. A powerful run and fend saw Evania Pelite get Australia on the board but Canada took a lead into the break thanks to captain Ghislaine Landry's try. That lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as Ellia Green rounded her marker. However, Canada weren't to be denied, Williams and Landry racing clear to wrap up a 26-12 win.
USA had won three of their four previous meetings with New Zealand, including the semi-final in the opening round in Glendale in October. It was New Zealand, though, who dominated from the outset and led 19-0 at half-time thanks to tries from captain Nathan-Wong, Kelly Brazier and Waaka. The series champions didn't let up after the break, Nathan-Wong running in her second single-handedly from a scrum. The Black Ferns Sevens were equally determined in defence, allowing USA just one late try through Nicole Heavirland in a 24-7 win.
Earlier in the quarter-finals, Australia again came out on top against Spain albeit by a much closer margin than the 38-5 win they enjoyed in the Pool B decider on Friday. Captain Sharni Williams and Emma Tonegato crossed for tries in the first half before Pelite wrapped up the 21-0 win after the break.
Canada had a point to prove in the next quarter-final, having been very disappointed with their last outing against USA and it took Paquin only 39 seconds to score their opening try. Paquin, who has been one of Canada's stand-out performers since returning in Kitakyushu after three years away from sevens, added a second before Williams made it 17-0. France could only manage one try in reply from Shannon Izar as they were unable to find a way through the physical Canadian defence.
Defending champions New Zealand were made to work hard for their 24-10 win over Fiji, playing in their first quarter-final since Paris in 2018. Ruby Tui scored in the opening minute, but Tokasa Seniyasi tied the scores at 5-5 until Waaka burst through tackles to run in her sixth try of the tournament. Brazier and Broughton increased the Black Ferns Sevens' lead but Fiji kept plugging away and were rewarded when Ana Maria Naimasi ran 70 metres to make the final score 24-10.
USA were equally impressive against Russia in the remaining quarter-final, Kris Thomas and Kristi Kirshe tries giving them a 14-0 advantage at half-time. Baizat Khamidova's powerful run got Russia on the board only 41 seconds after the restart, but Kirshe's second and another from Kelter wrapped up the 28-7 win for the Women's Sevens Eagles.
Defeats ended the tournament for Spain, France, Fiji and Russia with the teams being ranked five to eight in terms of series points depending on their point differential. On this basis, France finished fifth as the only team with a positive points difference, ahead of Russia, Fiji and Spain.
ENGLAND FINISH NINTH
England and Ireland were quarter-finalists 12 months ago, but contested ninth place this year. Heather Fisher and Amy Wilson-Hardy gave England a 14-0 lead, but they allowed Ireland back into the match, a poor tackle allowing Hannah Tyrell to half the deficit at half-time.
Deborah Fleming raced in from distance for England at the start of the second half, but a second error from the restart gave Ireland the ball and Tyrell touched down again. Ireland – missing injured flyer Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe – then forced sudden death extra-time after Eve Higgins converted Louise Galvin's try to tie the scores at 21-21.
Ireland's kick-off went sideways, handing England the possession. They held out the first wave of attacks and briefly cleared their lines, but a strong counter-ruck from England earned them a penalty and they worked the ball out to Fleming who had too much pace and scored the winner.
Japan and Brazil, two teams without a win this weekend in Dubai, kicked off the final day of the tournament in the 11th place play-off. Brazil scored first through Bianca Silva – one of World Rugby's Unstoppables in the 'Try and Stop Us' campaign – but tries from Iroha Nagata and Fumiko Ohata edged Japan into a 12-7 lead. With time almost up, Silva rounded her marker and raced in her second try to tie the scores, captain Raquel Kochhann's conversion going over off the post to give Brazil their first win on the 2020 series.