Japan upset New Zealand, Williams out in rocky rugby return

Cheryl Sanders
August 10, 2016

"Canada will play for a women's Olympic rugby medal â€" and a bit of redemption.The Canadians face Britain for bronze on Monday afternoon, looking to defeat the team that shut them out 22-0 in pool play.

But a New Zealand squad containing Sonny Bill Williams - a two-time World Cup victor in the 15-a-side game and the highest-profile star competing in rugby's return to the Olympics after 92 years - won as many titles (3) as Fiji on the 10-stop world sevens circuit.

The sevens world series-winning Australian women extended their streak to five straight wins against 2013 World Cup victor New Zealand, quite a change in fortune in the broader rugby context.

Australia's superiority was evident throughout and with just four minutes left in the game boasted a 19-point lead over its rival.

As well as the New Zealand men, 12-time world series champion in sevens, other genuine medal contenders include No. 2-ranked South Africa, No. 4 Australia, No. 5 Argentina, the No. 6-ranked United States and No. 7 Kenya, which had a breakthrough season in 2016.

The bronze medal was won by Canada in a one-sided match that ended with a 33-10 blitz of Britain.

Lemeki compared the win in Rio with Japan's big victory at the 15s World Cup in England a year ago.

"The feeling of letting my team down, that's what got to me the most", Woodman said.

While it was an historic day for the sport, the empty stands in the Deodoro Stadium suggested that sevens wasn't quite winning over the Rio locals.

"There's a lot of games over this tournament that we just didn't play the rugby that we are capable of", said Landry.

Each tournament is played across three days and involved 12 teams. The Canadians also earned a successful finish to the tournament after dropping a 17-5 semifinal decision to Australia early Monday. The top eight from the pool stage advance to the quarterfinals, and the winners of those matches go into the playoff for medals.

Tonegato's early equalizer was contentious as she crashed over near the corner flag, but referee Alhambra Nievas awarded the try after checking with both assistant referees.

A yellow card for New Zealand star Portia Woodman resulted in a significant momentum swing for the Australians.

Three minutes in a trademark attacking move went through the hands of Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry and out to winger Ellia Green, who finished superbly to stretch Australia's lead. New Zealand cut the margin with a second try for McAlister and another for Woodman, her 10th of the tournament.

"It's hard when you came for that gold, and it wasn't the performance that we really wanted", Woodman said. "They love it, and rugby's in our genes, and we knew they were going to bring it".

And now sevens has its first Olympic champions, one of whom is Shannon Parry.

Until then, the Australians have gold. Pelite, who has to carry around the boxing kangaroo and place it beside the field for each game because she's the youngest member of the touring squad, will probably get to turn over the rookie duties to somebody else.

The Americans are the defending gold medalists, having won in 1924, but the format for the Olympics and the rugby world order has changed significantly since then.

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