Ferns back on form in Vancouver

New Zealand won their first round of the 2023-24 SVNS World Series, closing the gap on Australia.

Published by John Birch, February 26th, 2024

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Ferns back on form in Vancouver

New Zealand won their first round of the 2023-24 SVNS World Series, closing the gap on Australia.

Portia Woodman-Wickliffe scored a hat-trick as New Zealand won 35-19 in a dominant display against France in the HSBC Vancouver 2024 final, defending their title and winning their first gold medal of the season.

After a rocky start to the year, the Black Ferns Sevens were without peer all weekend on Canadian soil, scoring a total of 32 tries and conceding just seven all weekend.

The final was a spectacle, but it was Canada’s 19-14 victory over SVNS series leaders Australia to secure the bronze medal that really got the home crowd on their feet.

Elsewhere, Perth champions Ireland ended a disappointing weekend with a win over Japan to grab ninth spot, while Spain won a pool game for the first time since December 2022 and secured a season-best finish of seventh as they beat Brazil 15-12

From Day One of this tournament, it was clear that New Zealand meant business in Vancouver, and there was to be only one winner in their final.

Portia Woodman-Wickliffe showed every bit of her pace to open the scoring in this final, but Anne-Cécile Ciofani squared things up moments later as she burst through the middle for France.

The Black Ferns Sevens had a nervy period in attack, but Michaela Blyde was there to cut through the confusion and the French defence, taking her side to a 14-7 lead.

A hot-stepping Jorja Miller added a third try through the middle, but it was the chip-through, perfectly weighted for Woodman-Wickliffe to gather and cross for her second, that showed that New Zealand just had too much for France.

France hit first in the second half to give some hope, but as Woodman-Wickliffe completed her hat-trick they were soon dissipated. Chloé Pelle added a final consolation try, but it was too little too late for a French side still chasing their first-ever SVNS tournament win.

New Zealand gave themselves a chance to defend their Vancouver title as they won 15-7 over Canada in the first semi-final.

They cantered to an early 10-0 lead thanks to Michaela Blyde’s brace, but Charity Williams’ crucial turnover under their own sticks saw Krissy Scurfield turn defence to attack as she drew Canada within three.

Despite their best efforts, Canada’s defensive scramble couldn’t hold out the Kiwis forever, all-time SVNS series scorer Portia Woodman-Wickliffe finding a way through for their third. A final attacking set looked promising for Canada, but Manaia Nuku denied them with a try-saving tackle.

Meanwhile, France edged a thrilling semi-final with Australia by 21-19 as Dominique Du Toit missed the crucial conversion with the clock in the red. Maddison Levi scored her second try of the game in the final seconds to give Australia hope, but Du Toit’s effort at the extras drifted wide to send France to the Vancouver final.

14-14 at half-time, Anne-Cécile Ciofani’s break early in the second took France ahead. A breathless period of French defence followed, leaving Australia pinned into their own 22 as the buzzer went. And while patient attacking play saw Levi find space out wide and score, it wasn’t to be for Australia as they failed to make the final for the first time this season.

In a closely fought contest, the scoreboard read 7-7 at the break, Canada making some impressive defensive efforts to nullify Australia in the wide channels.

And it was the hosts who drew first blood in the second half, Chloe Daniels flying through the Aussie line to take Canada 12-7 ahead. When Williams found space around the ruck to extend their lead to 12, all the momentum was heading their way.

A try from Levi, once again, threatened to crush Canadian hearts, but third place in Vancouver was theirs at full-time.


Pool A: New Zealand 40-7 Brazil; Ireland 28-7 South Africa; New Zealand 35-5 South Africa; Ireland 7-24 Brazil; Brazil 17-12 South Africa; Ireland 5-43 New Zealand

Pool B: United States 19-12 Fiji; Australia 12-10 Japan; United States 26-12 Japan; Australia 26-12 Fiji; Fiji 36-12 Japan; Australia 17-12 United States

Pool C: France 26-14 Canada; Great Britain 12-19 Spain; France 19-7 Spain; Great Britain 0-38 Canada; Canada 22-5 Spain; Great Britain 10-31 France

9th-12th Place Semi-Final: Japan 24-5 South Africa; Ireland 21-7 Great Britain

Quarter-Finals: United States 10-12 Canada; New Zealand 36-0 Spain; France 24-5 Brazil; Australia 35-19 Fiji

Semi-Finals: Canada 7-15 New Zealand; France 21-19 Australia

11th Place: South Africa 5-12 Great Britain

9th Place: Japan 7-12 Ireland

7th Place: Brazil 12-15 Spain

5th Place: United States 29-7 Fiji

3rd Place: Canada 19-14 Australia

Final: New Zealand 35-19 France

Series standings:

1: AUS 72pts; 2: NZL 66pts; 3: FRA 62pts; 4: USA 48pts; 5: CAN 48pts; 6: IRE 42pts; 7: FIJ 40pts; 8: GBR 26pts

9: BRA 20pts; 10: ESP 12pts; 11: JPN 12pts; 12: RSA 8pts