Third place finish in Brazil moves New Zealand to second in Women’s Series
After storming through pool play, New Zealand were undone by a skilful Canadian side in the semi-finals before claiming third place at the Sao Paulo Sevens.
The team defeated the USA 28-0 with Australia claiming its second title of the season by beating Canada 29-0 in the final.
The result lifted New Zealand to equal second place in the Women’s Series with Canada. There are three further tournaments to play in the 2015/16 season.
Following on from a fifth place finish in the opening tournament of the season in Dubai, Sao Paulo signalled a significant improvement for the side. The return of Huriana Manuel boosted the team on both attack and defence while Kayla McAlister was the star of the weekend.
The netball convert showed that she is one of the most dangerous players on the circuit by crossing for 11 tries over the weekend.
Playing off for third-place in pouring rain, New Zealand displayed great handling skills to cross for four tries and shut out USA.
Coach Sean Horan said the result was pleasing on many levels and marked an improvement from Dubai, but losing in the semi-final to Canada hurt.
“There was some good stuff here but we need to match it when those physical teams come up against us, like Canada and Russia. We’ve been found wanting in the last two tournaments when it comes to the physical side of teams running at us. So key for us is to get better at go-forward, tackle and dominating that contact area.
“We probably had more confidence than in Dubai in the way we wanted to attack and play the game. We were a little bit fitter and we also had a couple of changes to the squad which sharpened up the way we wanted to play the game. That showed through in the results.
“When you play five decent games out of six and you come up third it’s hard to swallow. But also it’s a good learning. If you fall short on one game, you won’t win it. So that’s key for us. We have to be prepared, because everyone brings their A game against us. Canada taught us a bit of a lesson.”
He had high praise for try scoring machine Kayla McAlister.
“Eleven tries in effectively four games is an amazing result. She was injured in semi-final against Canada in first minute then came back on and scored an amazing try. She’s pretty phenomenal.”
The team spent a week at a training facility in Florida before Sao Paulo. This will be the team’s base before travelling to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero. Horan said preparations for the Olympics remained well on track.
“We went to Florida and Rio on way through. It was a key to get an understanding of what it will look like later this year. We had a goal for 2015/16 and that was to be in top three seeding wise. The focus this year is the Olympics. We’ve won three World Series and the World Cup in last four years. So we know what it takes to win. But we want to focus on the big picture and that’s the beginning of August. That’s what we are tracking for and we are looking good. We’re confident in what we’re doing and where we’re heading.”
Sao Paul Sevens
Quarter-final: New Zealand 41 (McAlister 2, Tui 2, Brazier, Manuel, Williams tries, Nathan-Wong 3 con) Brazil 0
Semi-final: New Zealand 10 (McAlister 2) Canada 19
Third place playoff: New Zealand 28 (Woodman, Williams, Brazier, Goss tries, Nathan-Wong 4 con) USA 0
HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series table:
1. Australia (40 points),
2. New Zealand (28)
3. Canada (28)
4. France (26)
5. England (24)
6. Russia (22)
7. Fiji (18)
8. USA (16)