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‘New Zealand wants it more’: Australia seek ‘redemption’ in Toulouse

By Finn Morton
The Australian Women's Sevens team lost the Hong Kong Sevens final to New Zealand in April.

When the full-time siren sounded after an enthralling women’s Cup final at the Hong Kong Sevens in April, the Black Ferns began to celebrate.

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New Zealand had won their fifth World Series event in a row, and extended their lead on the overall standings with an historic victory at the spiritual home of sevens.

But whenever there’s a winner, there has to be a loser. Unfortunately for Australia, they’d fallen painfully short of a much-needed win against their fierce rivals.

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Australia opened the scoring in the second minute through Bienne Terita, and were well and truly in the fight for the duration of the final.

Sarah Paki scored with less than two minutes on the clock to make it a four-point game – it gave the defending World Series champs more than a glimmer of hope.

But New Zealand held on. Speedster Stacey Waaka crossed for her second try of the final with about 20 seconds to play, which sealed another famous win for the Black Ferns Sevens.

In a way, the result reflected the World Series up until that point.

Australia had been good, in fact very good for a majority of the campaign, but New Zealand had an edge over them.

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Led by the likes of Michaela Blyde and Shiray Kaka, the Black Ferns had stamped their authority on the World Series this season – at times, they appeared unbeatable.

But the Australians haven’t lost hope, or perspective of where they’re at. The reigning World Series champions are coming off an incredible triple crown in 2022, and they’ve still got a lot to learn as a team.

“Winning the triple crown last year, the World Series, Comm Games, World Cup, was just the start of it for us,” vice-captain Madison Ashby told RugbyPass.

“It was amazing, an amazing achievement from our team, especially as such a young team.

“New Zealand just came back onto the circuit in Langford, Canada, and for us to beat them there was the best feeling out team could have.

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“Winning that really helped our team realise, ‘Okay, we are good, we are a really amazing team, a very talented team that can achieve anything.’

“If you watched our final in Hong Kong, it was a tough game. It wasn’t like one team was worse than worse than the other, I think what let us down was skills and a little bit of New Zealand wants it more.

“In those moments, they’ve got a very well-put, experienced team. They’ve got a gold medal winning Olympic team.

“This last year, even though we haven’t been winning, it’s been very good learning for our team… we don’t want to be peaking now, we want to be peaking next year.

“I get we’re losing at the moment but our losses aren’t bad losses. We know we’re such a young team and all we can do is keep learning, keep working hard, and keep excelling so by the time we get to the Olympics next year we’re exactly where we want to be.”

Australia began their World Series defence with an idyllic Cup final win over the Black Ferns in Dubai late last year.

Spurred on by standout performances from veteran Sharni Williams and rising star Maddison Levi, the Aussies held on for a hard-fought 26-19 victory.

But in the five World Series events since, it’s been one way traffic for New Zealand. While Australia have failed to maintain some consistency, the Black Ferns have been sensational.

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Australia were beaten by New Zealand in the Cape Town decider, and slumped to a bronze medal finish in Hamilton the following month.

But things went from bad to worse in front of their home fans at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium as they were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals.

While they were better in Vancouver, Australia walked away with another silver medal.

Then, playing at the traditional home of sevens for the first time on the Women’s World Series, the Aussies were dealt a similar fate in Hong Kong.

“Not so much wanted it more, I think there were moments in Hong Kong, we’re down (four) points, they have a tap, there’s still 40 seconds to go, we’re not out of the game,” Ashby added.

“Moments like that, we just switch off a tiny bit.

“It’s moments like that where we just needed to work a bit harder and grind more.”

But the past is the past, that can’t be changed.

Looking to grow and develop as a team, the Australians have one final shot at “redemption” this season when they take the field in Toulouse.

“Gotta get through the pool games first.

“Always quarter-finals, I say are our hardest games of the tournament because they’re do or die games.

“Just got to get through those games but definitely redemption for us. We want to leave this series with a bang so we can enjoy our break and then get ready for Olympic season.”

The Toulouse Sevens is the final event on the Women’s World Series for the 2022/23 season, and will take place from May 12th to 14.

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