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How Black Ferns Sevens plan to shut Maddison Levi down in LA final

By Finn Morton
Australia's Maddison Levi against Brazil in LA. Picture: World Rugby.

For just the second time this season, New Zealand will face arch-rivals Australia in a SVNS Series decider to determine who the queens of this weekend’s tournament in Los Angeles are.

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New Zealand beat South Africa and Fiji during a practically perfect run in pool play, with the women in black finishing with a +107 points differential after only conceding 12.

The Black Ferns Sevens maintained their level of excellence in a dominant quarter-final win over Ireland. They again continued to set the standard in their semi-final against a valiant Canadian side on Day Three.

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Portia Woodman-Wickliffe scored a double as the Kiwis ran away with a 31-12 victory. This is the first time in the 2023/24 campaign that the Black Ferns Sevens have made consecutive finals.

“I think just simplifying it at the end of the day. We just stripped it all back and just thought about what is rugby about. It’s kick, pass tackle. Just simplified our moves and went back to real basis,” New Zealand’s Tyla King said when asked about the secret behind their recent success.

“We’re seeing out there, the calmer we are the better we play, the more fun we’re having. I think that’s credit to the girls for putting in the work from Perth and now we’re reaping the rewards.

“But we’ve still got one more to go.”

New Zealand are set for a colossal clash of the Titans on Sunday afternoon after SVNS Series front-runners Australia got the better of the United States in a thrilling semi-final.

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With the scores locked at 19-all, USA threatened to win the fixture as they charged the ball deep into Australia’s 22, But captain Charlotte Caslick won a turnover at the breakdown which swung the match in their favour.

Australia went down the other end and ended up scoring with time up on the clock as speedster Faith Nathan raced out for the winning try.

But there’s no doubt about who the star of the show is. Maddison Levi scored another double to extend her try-scoring tally to an incredible 11 at SVNS LAX.

“Just don’t let her get the ball,” King said of Levi before laughing. “That’s one way. She can’t score if she hasn’t got the ball.

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“We know it’s going to be a good battle out there… whoever we get, it’s going to be a grind.

“We’re up for anything. We’ll go back now and relax, celebrate actually, Michaela getting 200 games on the World Series as well.”

It’s been a big weekend for the New Zealanders. Woodman-Wickliffe is playing in her 50th tournament, and wing Michalea Blyde just played in her 200th SVNS Series match.

But Tyla King has etched her own name into history as one of the all-time greats after breaking the record for most points scored by a women’s player on the international circuit.

“It was pretty cool just to know that I’ve cracked it finally.

“But yeah, we had been talking about it as a team and I think Portia was doing the math out on the field. She’s like, ‘Okay she’s got two kicks, just needs another one.’

“When she heard me I guess she was like, ‘Here you go Tyla.’ I guess it pays off being a little seagull around the strikers out there.

“Anytime someone achieves a pretty good milestone it is always celebrated by the haka and obviously you saw Portia when she hit her 50th tournament for NZ and me as well.

“Whenever you’re on the other side of the haka it’s pretty special because it’s not often that you get to stand there and get one performed at you, you’re usually in it. It was a goosebump moment.”

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