Australia have been dominant in 2022 and this was their fourth gold medal in five tournaments, but New Zealand pushed them all the way.
Covid concerns affecting world travel meant that the Black Ferns had missed the four previous events, but it was great to have them back.
They led 17-14 as the clock went into the red in the final, but Australia never gave up and Lily Dick, later named HSBC Player of the Final, showed good footwork and strength to go in under the posts. Dominique du Toit converted as Australia celebrated.
Lily Dick said: “It was all about being composed at the end. We knew we just needed one try and thankfully it came, this team never gives up.”
Earlier in the day, Australia had accrued enough points to be crowned overall series winners and it was a perfect weekend for them.
Also, earlier in the day, New Zealand’s legendary Portia Woodman had made it over the 200 try mark on the circuit in a decorated career.
And her players and management performed the team haka to show their respect for her after that moment, the player joining in and the video clip going viral on social media.
The bronze medal went to Ireland after DHL Impact Player Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe bagged four tries against France to take her total for the whole weekend to 12. Murphy-Crowe became the first Irish woman to score 4 tries in a series match and the first Irish woman to score 10 or more tries in a single series event. The final score was 22-14.
A highlight for the home crowd was Canada picking up a fifth place finish and after they defeated USA 12-7 in their final game Olivia Apps said: “I am speechless, this is an amazing moment and the crowd have pulled us through the whole weekend.
“We want to really build from here.”
Cup final: Lily Dick holds her nerve to give Australia another tournament win
Maddison Levi picked up a loose ball in the second minute and then showed her pace on the edge to score the opening try of the game for Australia. It was her seventh try of the weekend and when Sharni Williams converted it was 7-0.
Midway through the half a great pass from Sarah Hirini set-up Alena Saili for an unconverted try for New Zealand. Amazingly, it was the first try Australia had conceded in the first half all weekend.
And they conceded another just before the break when a mix up in the Australian defence saw Sarah Hirini pounce for a five pointer and it was 10-7 with seven minutes to go.
That messy try clearly annoyed Australia because soon after the start of the second half they went back ahead when Charlotte Caslick scored a try. Sharni Williams converted for 14-7.
With just over two minutes remaining New Zealand needed something special and it came from Michaela Blyde.
She powered down the right and scored and then Tyla Nathan-Wong kicked a crucial conversion to make it 17-14.
That was all before Lily Dick’s late converted try and after the match Charlotte Caslick said: “That was a tough final, it is great to have New Zealand back on the circuit, but we wanted this so much and it got us over the line.”
Bronze medal match: The Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe show as four tries gives Ireland bronze
Séraphine Okemba got France off to a perfect start in the bronze medal match with a converted try after just one minute.
However, they trailed 10-7 at the interval as Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe scored tries nine and 10 of the tournament for Ireland.
Not look after the break, she completed her hat-trick before France pulled things back to 15-14 with a converted try via Lou Noel.
France just could not cope with the pace of Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe though and try number four for her, converted this time by Lucy Mullhall, got them over the line 22-14.
The bronze backed up the silver in Seville last time and the four try hero said: “This team is all about heart, this group of players works so hard and now we are getting the rewards for that and showing people what we can do.”
Cup semi-finals: New Zealand and Australia make it through
The first Cup semi-final was a repeat of the Tokyo Olympic final as France met New Zealand.
The Black Ferns won in Japan and they did so again here, but they were really made to battle for their place in the final.
Tries by Chloé Pelle and Camille Grassineau - both converted by Jade Ulutule - meant that France led 14-7 at the break, Alena Saili with the converted effort for New Zealand.
After the break, New Zealand stepped things up a gear and tries from Michaela Blyde (2) and Risi Pouri-Lane got them home 26-14 along with two Tyla Nathan-Wong conversions.
The second last four match was a repeat of the final from Seville in the last tournament as Ireland took on Australia.
And the Australians got off to a flyer in the first half of this one and never looked back.
Charlotte Caslick and Faith Nathan (2) scored tries in the first seven minutes to make it 19-0 and although Vicki Elmes Kinlan pulled one back with four minutes to go, Sariah Paki’s converted effort saw Australia win 26-5.
Cup quarter-finals: Woodman hits landmark for Black Ferns as they progress with France, Ireland and Australia
France, who had won all their Pool B games on day one, and Fiji met in the first Cup quarter-final.
And it was the French, helped by two second half tries from Camille Grassineau, who came out on top 31-14.
Their other try scorers were Chloé Pelle, Coralie Bertrand and Jade Ulutule while Alowesi Nakoci and Reapi Ulunisau both bagged converted tries by Fiji early on as they built up a 14-5 half-time lead before France fought back.
Having finished second in Pool a on day one the hosts Canada were next up in the last eight against Pool C winners New Zealand.
They were cheered on by the crowd, but they came up against a slick New Zealand side and the 38-0 triumph for the latter also saw Portia Woodman go through the 200 try mark for her country on the circuit.
Indeed, the legendary Woodman scored two tries in the game early on in the first half with Sarah Hirini, Stacey Fluhler, Risi Pouri-Lane and Tenika Willison the others crossing.
Late tries by Katie Heffernan and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe saw Ireland come back from 14-7 down to beat USA 17-14 in the third Cup quarter-final.
Converted scores from Lucy Mulhall and Jaz Gray made it 7-7 at half-time and the Americans went up when Kristi Kirshe’s try was converted by
Nicole Heavirland with three minutes remaining before the late Irish sucker punch.
The fourth and final last eight tie was nowhere near as tight, Australia winning a one-sided tie against Spain 55-0.
Maddison Levi, Faith Nathan and Sharni Williams all scored try doubles with Charlotte Caslick, Dominique du Toit and Sariah Paki also crossing.
Fifth place: Canada beat USA to spark celebrations
In the final, the home support were on their feet in the first half as tries by Florence Symonds and Keyara Wardley, the latter converted by Olivia Apps, gave Canada a 12-0 advantage over USA.
USA started strongly after the break and scored a converted try through Kristi Kirshe to make it 12-7 while Krissy Scurfield was yellow carded for Canada after a high tackle.
No more points came before the sin binned player returned and Canada held on to spark wild celebrations in the stadium.
Earlier, Florence Symonds and Krissy Scurfield scored tries in the last four minutes of the tie as Canada wowed the crowd to see off Fiji 26-19 in the first fifth place semi-final.
Reapi Ulunisau (2) and Sesenieli Donu scored tries for Fiji - both converted by Lavenia Cavuru - earlier in the match.
However, the tries mentioned plus earlier ones from Keyara Wardley and Krissy Scurfield saw Canada come out on top.
USA set-up a mouth-watering fifth place play-off final with their near neighbours by beating Spain in their own semi-final 17-0.
Ilona Maher, Kristi Kirshe and Sarah Levy scored the tries for the Americans with Alena Olsen kicking one conversion.
Seventh place: Four tries from Fiji make sure they beat Spain to seventh
Tries by Alowesi Nakoci and Raijieli Daveua - both converted by Viniana Riwai - gave Fiji a 14-0 lead at half-time in the seventh place play-off final and set them on the way to a victory.
Alowesi Nakoci, with her second, and Reapi Ulunisau scored further tries for them after the interval in the 26-7 win, Lea Ducher scoring and converting Spain’s only try.
Ninth place: A brilliant first half in final sets up Brazil for ninth spot
A fast start in the final was what propelled Brazil to ninth place.
Mariana Nicolau, Rafaela Zanellato and Bianca Silva all scored first half tries - with one converted by Raquel Kochhann - as the Brazilians led 17-0.
Emma Uren pulled one back for England, but with a minute to go Thalia Costa’s try secured things for Brazil 24-7.
Earlier, Thalia Costa’s two tries led the way as Brazil defeated Mexico 34-5 in the first ninth place semi-final. During this match, Mexico scored their first ever try on the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series.
Gabriela Lima, Rafaela Zanellato, Camilla Carvalo and Bianca Silva also scored while Mexico’s sole effort came from Zoe Tuyú.
England made sure they would be in the ninth place play-off final against Brazil by seeing off Japan 29-7 in their own last four clash.
Jade Shekells (2), Ellie Boatman, Abi Burton and Heather Cowell were the try scorers for the victors.
11th place: Japan ease to victory over Mexico
Japan controlled the 11th place play-off final from the first kick-off, eventually going on to defeat Mexico 45-0.
Mei Otani, Marin Kajiki, Yume Hirano, Hana Nagata (2), Chiaki Saegusa and Sakurako Yazaki scored tries for the victors with Hana Nagata kicking four conversions and Misaki Matsumura one.
Toulouse is the venue for the next sevens action
The next top level sevens action is in France later in May.
For the women it will be the final HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event out of six for 2022 in France between May 20 and May 22.
For the men it will be the seventh out of nine events for 2022 on the same dates.