New Zealand warm up for Olympics with near-perfect weekend in Trans-Tasman Sevens

The All Blacks Sevens won all six matches against Australia, while the Black Ferns Sevens lost only one, to lay down a sizable marker on the road to Tokyo.

New Zealand’s men and women looked in ominous form over the weekend as they warmed up for the Olympic Games with Trans-Tasman Sevens success against Australia.

Held over three days in Auckland, the tournament offered the four teams a first taste of international competition in more than 400 days.

And, despite the pandemic induced lay-off, the hosts laid down a sizeable marker as both the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens target a gold medal in Tokyo in two months’ time.

The All Blacks Sevens, who finished fifth at Rio 2016, won all six matches in their head-to-head with Australia’s men, completing a series sweep with 36-5 and 31-14 victories on Sunday.

Australia, of course, won the women’s gold-medal match against New Zealand in Brazil five years ago. But, the Black Ferns Sevens were in dominant mood in Auckland as they won five of the six contests between the sides.

Kiwi star Portia Woodman, playing her first sevens internationals since November, 2018, due to injuries, scored a hat-trick in the first women’s match on Sunday, as the Black Ferns Sevens won 33-12 and then 24-12 to rubber-stamp their superiority.

The tournament was designed to replicate Olympic conditions with the men’s and women’s teams each playing two matches per day. Friday and Sunday’s action took place at Grammar TEC RFC, while on Saturday the teams played either side of the Blues’ Super Rugby Trans-Tasman defeat of the NSW Waratahs at Eden Park. 

It was the first time Australia and New Zealand had been involved in international competition since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 was prematurely curtailed 14 months ago. 

“It's been great to play rugby. It’s been a long time between drinks,” All Blacks sevens coach Clark Laidlaw told Sky Sport. 

“We’ve loved the weekend. It's been hugely valuable on and off the field. It will take us time to reflect on our own game. They stretched us a little bit with the type of attack they’ve got because they like to keep the ball away from us and not contest with us at the breakdown.

“That tested us, our senior players got a lot of rugby, and you saw the next generation that can take the team forward over the next couple of years.”

Woodman returns

The tournament offered the respective coaches an opportunity to evaluate the depth of their squads as they finalise their plans for Tokyo.

And, there would have been no more welcome sight for Black Ferns Sevens coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney than Woodman running out for the first time since Glendale two-and-a-half years ago.

“It’s awesome to get back out there,” Woodman said post-match. 

“Nothing makes you hungrier than injuries and being away from the field for about three years. I know I'm in a better space mentally and physically. I'm a lot stronger than I was.”

Although Australia’s women were unable to replicate their Rio heroics, coach John Manenti insisted there were positives to take on the journey to Japan. 

“It was great to be back playing and though it was far from perfect, it gives us a much better [idea] of our key work-ons for the next few weeks,” he said.

“For periods in every game we dominated, we just have to do it for longer.

“Discipline hurt us, unforced errors hurt us but they’re not hard things to fix and with another block of games only a few weeks away we get another chance to test ourselves.”

Tim Walsh, Australia’s men’s coach, was also grateful for the opportunity to test his team against one of the best squads in the world and remains upbeat about his side’s chances in Tokyo. 

“The team always enjoys playing New Zealand, and to get the opportunity to come over here and play was invaluable,” he said.

“The tournament was incredibly well run, as a team we got a lot out of it, from what the players learnt to how we get back into the rhythm of game day.

“The nature of sevens is that it’s a game of tight moments, these moments make the difference between a win and a loss and we will use the lessons from these fixtures to continue to work on winning the moments.”

READ MORE: Olympic repechage: Both French sides ‘craving’ Tokyo qualification >>

Last updated: May 24, 2021, 10:19:39 AM
HK women's sevens head coach Iain Monaghan
wr-women-news-sevens sevens-news-women wr-news-olympics-repechage-teams sevens wr-news-sevens Olympic Qualifying wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news wr-news-olympics-m sevens-news-men
Olympic Repechage contenders Hong Kong have already conquered their ‘Everest’
Hong Kong’s women have been ‘moving mountains’ in a bid to be in the best possible shape for the World Rugby Olympic Sevens Repechage in Monaco on 18-20 June.
Rugby Africa Women's Cup 2019: South Africa v Kenya - CREDIT: Gallo Images
wr-women-news-regions wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news wr-women-news-power Womens
South Africa “no longer just a follower” when it comes to gender diversity in rugby
We spoke to World Rugby Council member Vanessa Doble about the constitutional amendments SA Rugby has made to increase female representation in its governance structures.
Maria Thomas
wr-women-news-regions wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news Feature wr-women-news-power Womens
Maria Thomas putting scholarship lessons into practice as Trinidad and Tobago RFU’s first female president
We caught up with the World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient following her historic election win.
wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
World Rugby welcomes Mastercard as founding global partner of Women in Rugby and unveils new marketing campaign
World Rugby has announced details of a transformative five-year partnership with Mastercard and has also launched its new Team Powered marketing campaign.
Photo of players running out at a Japan rugby test event
wr-women-news-sevens wr-news wr-women-news wr-news-asia wr-news-sevens
Japan sevens chief hopes Tokyo Olympics continues cycle of success
With 50 days to go until the men’s final of the Olympic rugby sevens competition, Japan head coach Kensuke Iwabuchi looks forward to competing on home soil in Tokyo.
Amanda Cox
wr-women-news-regions wr-women-news-coach wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news Feature Womens
Amanda Cox on the fight for more female representation in refereeing
We caught up with the referee coach to discuss her life in rugby and find out what needs to be done to create more opportunities for women to become match officials.
Photo of the France and Tunisia sides during a training camp at Marcoussis
Olympics wr-news Women's wr-women-news wr-news-olympics-repechage-teams sevens Team News Womens
The "Rebellious" preparing to fly the Tunisian flag in Monaco
As we reach 50 days to the rugby sevens kick-off at the Tokyo Olympics, the Tunisian women's rugby sevens team prepares to play their second World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco, with ambitions beyond Tokyo 2020.
Argentine 7s captain Gimena Mattus attacks during the 2019 Pan American Games.
wr-women-news-sevens wr-news wr-women-news Feature wr-news-sevens Preview Olympic Qualifying
Argentina looking to end a difficult two years with history at Monaco sevens showdown
Argentina won't be flying into Monaco's Olympic Repechage as favourites, but that isn't stopping their dreams of Tokyo, as coach Tomás Bongiorno and captain Gime Mattus tell World Rugby.
Germany win Lodz Sevens 2019
wr-news-sevens wr-women-news-sevens wr-news wr-women-news
Germany look to new generation to defend Rugby Europe men’s sevens crown
Germany men’s sevens head coach Damian McGrath speaks to World Rugby ahead of the start of the Rugby Europe Championship Sevens Series.
HSBC New Zealand Sevens 2020 - Women's
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens Women's sevens-news-women sevens wr-news-sevens sevens-news-feature sevens-news-olympic wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News Womens
Emilee Cherry: Five memorable moments from the career of a rugby sevens pioneer
Following the announcement that Cherry will hang up her boots prior to the Tokyo Olympics, we recap some of her best moments in the green and gold of Australia.