The New Zealand women’s rugby team fell at the final hurdle today, losing the Olympic final to Australia 24-17.
Their silver medal takes New Zealand’s medal tally in Rio to two silvers, following the heroics of trap shooter Natalie Rooney yesterday.
After their impressive 25-7 win over Great Britain in the semi-finals, the New Zealanders had high hopes of winning the gold – the first Olympic rugby gold awarded in 92 years.
Australia were the form team all season on the sevens circuit, but they showed some chinks in this tournament, including a 12-12 draw with the United States in qualifying matches.
However, in the final the Australians made all the play, dominating possession and at one point scoring 24 consecutive points.
New Zealand’s problems were compounded just before halftime when star wing Portia Woodman was sinbinned for a deliberate knock on. Australia took full advantage, scoring twice and virtually sealing the game in the time Woodman was confined to the sideline.
Kayla McAlister opened the scoring after four minutes to the delight of the strong New Zealand contingent in the crowd.
However, there was precious little else for the New Zealand fans to celebrate.
Emma Jonegato, Evania Pelite, Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslock scored tries while the New Zealanders were starved of possession.
Once Australia had a 24-5 lead, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. New Zealand scored a couple of consolation tries, a second one for McAlister and the final one to Woodman, who scored a try in every match New Zealand played.
New Zealand captain Sarah Goss said the team was "gutted" with the result.
"We came out here to win a gold medal and we are bringing back a silver. But silver's still good in New Zealand's eyes and we hope we have done them proud," she said.
"It's a medal. It's getting on to the podium. We came out here to grow a women's legacy. To get more women and more children playing rugby and I hope we did that around the world and hopefully next time we come to the Olympics there's a lot more women playing rugby."
Canada beat Great Britain 33-10 in the bronze medal match.
Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Portia Woodman Kayla McAlister Sarah Goss Rugby - Sevens