The Black Ferns took full advantage of some late magic from Gayle Broughton to stage an early bid for a second successive World Series crown by edging to victory in Dubai.
Cory Sweeney and Allan Bunting’s girls saved the best for last at The Sevens Stadium Saturday, beating Canada 17-14 in a thrilling final.
The stadium was engulfed by a barrage of noise from an impressive fireworks display following victory as smoke billowed throughout the stands.
When it cleared, New Zealand were still standing, showing plenty of pace, accuracy and conviction when it mattered most.
In defence, the Black Ferns worked tirelessly and always found a way to get the upper-hand in key pressure moments.
Stacey Waaka, the stand-out player in the Emirates, was instrumental, touching down for two tries as well as showing searing class on the ball.
The 24-year-old opened the scoring after two minutes, dancing around three players to put the defending champions ahead.
A lapse in concentration in middle saw Canada release Karen Paquin who powered through the middle to touch down, the 32-year-old sprinting through like a five litre Mustang. Ghislaine Landry converted to make it 7-5.
Growing in confidence after Paquin’s try, they swept the ball wide and Julia Greenshields drove over to extend Canada’s lead. Landry made no mistake with the conversion.
The Blacks Ferns raced through down the left flank just before the break, but the exceptional Charity Williams made a stunning try saving tackle on Waaka.
It was one of many moments during the first half where Canada demonstrated their sublime defensive qualities.
After the restart, the Black Ferns looked strong with ball in hand, changing the tempo, slowing down and picking the moments to speed up and challenge the defensive line.
Kelly Brazier altered the direction of attack and the imperious Waaka collected the ball, breaking through the defence to dive under the posts for her 15th try of the tournament.
Canada did have a chance to extend their advantage late on, barrelling through the middle and looking sharp in attack. But the totemic Teresa Fitzpatrick showed immense strength to force a crucial turnover.
From the ensuing attack, the winners pushed forward and Waaka was again to the fore, using her nifty footwork and intelligence to make some hard yards.
They channelled the ball out left and Broughton was on hand to take the ball on and cross the line for the winning score.
Credit to Canada, they threw everything at their opponents, defended well but couldn’t breach a granite-like Black Ferns defence.
After the game, captain Tyla Nathan-Wong said: “Honestly I’m just super proud. It’s been tough, working hard, grinding. We have a few injuries back home but the whole squad, the management, we worked as hard for each other. We had the heart and patience and we knew we could back it up.”
“In the final minute I had full trust to hang on the ball, be patient, allow the ball to do the work, secure the rucks and Gayle (Broughton) used her magic to get over the line.”
“Stacey (Waaqa) has been amazing this week. She is usually is in the forwards but stepped up this weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing her next week in Cape Town and see how she goes.”
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