Australia has won the first ever Olympic gold medal awarded for rugby sevens after defeating New Zealand 24-17 at Deodoro this morning.
The fired up Australians outscored their rivals, four tries to three in the thrilling win which they say was inspired by a sledge from New Zealand coach Sean Horan. Following New Zealand’s semi-final victory over Great Britain, Horan claimed that Australia lacked physicality and were unable to handle pressure.
New Zealand opened the scoring mid way through the first half when a wayward line-out throw from Australia gave away possession allowing Kayla McAlister to cross in the left corner for the first of her two tries.
The kiwi’s physicality, no doubt their game plan, kept Australia in their own half early on in the match. Stuck in poor field position, Australia’s Emma Tonegato managed to break away downfield before being tackled close to the goal line which resulted in a turnover. Tonegato then got another chance after a penalty, crossing the line in the right corner for what looked like a knock on. The try was reviewed and subsequently awarded after the referees conferred on the grounding.
Just before half-time, New Zealand star Portia Woodman was given a yellow card which Australia took full advantage of when Evania Pelite sprinted down the left flank to put the Aussie’s in front 10-5.
After a knock on from the restart, Australia were able to regain composure when Charlotte Caslick linked up with Emily Cherry to put Ellia Green over the line, taking the score to 17-5. Another quick try to Caslick put the win out of reach for New Zealand.
The Kiwi’s managed two late tries with McAlister crossing over for her second and Woodman scoring at the end of play to take her tournament leading tally to 10 tries.
Canada defeated Great Britain 33-10 in the playoff for third, winning a bronze medal.
Earlier this morning, Australia defeated Canada in the semi-final 17-5 while New Zealand won 25-17 over Great Britain.
This caps off a wonderful year for the Australian side who also won their maiden world series.
Rio marks the first time rugby has been included in the Olympics since 1924 and a debut for sevens.
The men’s tournament begins Wednesday morning with Australia’s first match against France at midnight. – Andrew Cullen
Photo of women’s sevens medal presentation from AUS Olympic Team Twitter page.