Trans-Tasman rivalry set for new chapter

Womens - Sydney
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia and New Zealand have been battling it out for Sevens supremacy and they’ll have another showdown in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

The Aussie women have not beaten New Zealand in a major tournament since the Olympic gold medal match in Rio in 2016.

Last year, both sides missed out on the Sydney Cup final, with the Kiwis prevailing in the bronze playoff.

New Zealand went on to win all the remaining tournaments on the World Series circuit, while Australia finished second and third twice each.

Australia came into Dubai the form team, having won the Middle East tournament, while New Zealand suffered a shock quarter-final loss to the USA.

Both sides, though, are firing in Sydney - Australia has scored 182 unanswered points over five games and all of New Zealand’s superstars are lighting up the field.

With the Commonwealth Games in April and the Sevens World Cup in July, Sydney could be the first installment of another round of epic encounters in 2018.

“It's always been a battle and I'm pretty sure we're even with wins and losses against each other,” she said.

“With the Commonwealth Games coming in a couple of months time, it's going to be in Australia on the Gold Coast, they'll have a bit of a home advantage but there's a lot of Kiwis on the Gold Coast so almost feel like home to us too."

Australia’s clean sheet is a rare feat, but New Zealand coach Allan Bunting said the Olympic champions were yet to be truly tested in that space.

“They're a consistent team, they're a good team and if you don't stop them from getting the game going, they're pretty hard to stop,” he said.

“They hold on to possession and use the ball really well, so i guess they haven't been tested defensively yet.

One thing both teams could agree on, is that it would be a war of attrition in the final game, with neither side forgiving opposition mistakes.

“The players are pretty similar,” Bunting said.

“They've got a couple of new players and we obviously brought some in too. When you play against Aussie, it's usually the team that makes less errors.”

Walsh echoed that sentiment.

“Player for player they're really good match-ups,” he said.

“One team makes a mistake, the other one's just going to pounce on it.

“it is just going to be a real battle of the breakdown, a battle of skills, battle of the aerial skills, it's going to be everything.”

Australia never had the chance to play a final at home last year, and Walsh said that in itself would create a special moment for the team on Sunday.

"I think it's just amazing where the game's come from, where it's going, where it can go,' he said.

"I think the girls with the success they've had over the last three or four years or longer, it's really built the game up and really brought that support and there's some household names running around in the team.

"I remember last year's reception when we ran out for the warm-up, the whole stadium stood up.

"It's a pretty special thing to be able to be part of and to see it grow and we'd like to perform for ourselves first but then be nice to show and put on some entertainment for the people that have supported us all the way through."

Australia takes on New Zealand in the Sydney 7s Cup final on Sunday January 28 at 2:37pm AEDT.