Sevens rugby provided the icing on the cake for the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team today.
The men’s and women’s teams both won gold to wrap up the Gold Coast Games in style for New Zealand.
Sarah Goss’s women’s team were pushed into extra time by Australia before winning 17-12, thus reversing the result of their Rio Olympics final match-up in 2016.
The stadium had hardly settled down again when the New Zealand men’s team beat Olympic champions Fiji 14-0 to make it double gold. The massive New Zealand contingent in the crowd gave their teams tremendous support and players from both teams acknowledged what a difference that had made.
The rugby efforts lifted New Zealand’s overall Games tally to an impressive 15 golds, 16 silvers and 15 bronzes – a total of 46.
The women beat England 26-5 in their semi-final today. Michaela Blyde, Sarah Goss, the captain, Portia Woodman and Shakira Baker got into the try-scoring act and Tyla Nathan-Wong added three conversions. New Zealand led 17-5 at halftime.
In the final, New Zealand began superbly, playing with speed and passion.
They were rewarded when their try-scoring machine, Woodman, jetted through the opposition to score after three minutes. Blyde stretched the lead three minutes later and Tennika Willison converted it so that at the break it was 12-0 to New Zealand.
As well as New Zealand had played in the first half, they struggled in the second spell, as Australia fought back to score two tries. The New Zealand women were mighty glad when Emma Sykes’ eminently kickable conversion attempt just before the end missed, meaning extra time was required.
Errors crept in during extra time, but finally it was Kelly Brazier who scored with time up on the clock, after a thrilling 65-metres run that left defenders floundering.
Brazier was strong throughout, Blyde made a brilliant try-saving tackle and Niall Williams also tackled gallantly.
Goss seemed in shock afterwards.
“I can’t believe I just won a gold medal,” she said. “I’m so proud of all the girls.”
She said in the second half “everything that could go wrong did. But we train for the ugly moments and we got through today.”
The New Zealand women had easily the best statistics of any team in the tournament. They scored 153 points and 25 tries, the most, and conceded 24 points and four tries, the least. Woodman scored tries in every match and set the tournament record with eight.
The New Zealand men dispatched England 17-12 in their semi-final. Regan Ware and Etene Nanai-Seturo scored tries and Vilimoni Koroi converted one. The New Zealanders led 12-7 at halftime.
Buoyed by the win by their women’s team, the New Zealand men outplayed Fiji 14-0 in the final. As in the semi-final, Nanai-Seturo and Ware scored tries, Ware’s a real beauty, and Koroi added one conversion. It was 14-0 at halftime.
To keep Fiji, the Olympic champions, scoreless in a major final, was a credit to the organisation and effectiveness of the New Zealand defence.
In fact, New Zealand conceded just four tries in the tournament, the best record of any of the men’s teams. Ware’s five tries equalled the best of any male player.
Tim Mikkelson, a veteran of the Delhi gold medal win, said the men had been inspired by the women’s extra time win and went out determined to make it a double.
Men’s coach Clark Laidlaw said the result was satisfying, but that he was just as proud because everyone could be involved.
“We are trying to build a foundation that grows the team, so that when we leave the team it’ll be in a better place,” he said.
“It’s a credit to the way we’ve trained, physically, technically and tactically. The goal was about winning here and we knew that. You could see going into the game how more cohesive it is.”
Since sevens was introduced to the Games at Kuala Lumpur in 1998, New Zealand have won all but one of the gold medals.Gold Coast 2018 Rio 2016 Delhi 2010 Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games Olympic Summer Games Vilimoni Koroi Clark Laidlaw Michaela Blyde Regan Ware Shakira Baker Tyla Nathan-Wong Sarah Hirini Niall Williams Kelly Brazier Portia Woodman Tim Mikkelson Rugby - Sevens