DUBAI // As New Zealand’s wounded women walked out of the players tunnel and away from The Sevens on Friday night, they bore more than a few signs of battle.
Just 10 players had been fit enough to make their squad for the Women’s World Series final, down from the normal 12.
One hobbled away from Pitch 1 on crutches, while Tenika Willison nursed an angry black-eye with the cool of a freshly-issued medal.
Happily for her and her team, the medal was gold, they were Dubai champions again - and it was all the sweeter that it was at the expense of their neighbours Australia.
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According to Portia Woodman, who said she even shocked herself by her speed for her long-distance try in the first half, the 17-5 win softened the blow of missing out to the Aussies at the Olympics in Rio.
“It does, but that is in the past now, we have a new coach, new girls, and we are looking to develop our squad,” Woodman said.
“We are really stoked, with the win and how we performed together. The result speaks for itself.
“Australia are such a good side, there is that trans-Tasman rivalry as well. We love winning, but it is a little bit nicer that it is Australia.”
After Woodman’s stunning effort, Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga, who started the final on the bench, scored two to put the match beyond Australia, who were the defending Dubai champions.
“If you don’t make tackles, you don’t win games,” Tim Walsh, Australia’s coach, said. “It was pretty terrible from our defence.
“New Zealand played really well. You can’t keep winning and winning and winning. Every win is a step closer to a loss, and this one will make us even more determined when we get to Sydney for our home tournament [in February].”
Russia did not quite reprise their heroics from this tournament 12 months ago, when they thrashed New Zealand in pool play, and only lost to Australia in the final.
They did continue to impress, though, as they took the bronze medal with a 17-14 win over England, having lost out 24-5 to New Zealand in the semi-final.
A fourth-place finish still met with the approval of James Bailey, who was overseeing his first tournament as England’s coach.
They had brought an inexperienced side with them to the UAE, typified by the fact their captain, Abbie Brown, is just 20 years old.
“That was outstanding,” said Bailey, whose side had lost 31-10 to Australia in the last four.
“We came into the tournament with a blend of some experienced internationals, but also five debutants who were experiencing the World Series for the first time.
“We didn’t really know what was going to happen, but we came here, put performances in, and learnt from game to game. To get to the bronze medal match, one what is a first experience for this group, is outstanding.”
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