'It sucks' - Black Ferns 7s react after Australia dash gold medal hopes

Source: 1News

The Black Ferns Sevens have been beaten in a dramatic Commonwealth Games semifinal 17-12 by Australia on Sunday morning in Coventry.

Portia Woodman looks to fend in the Commonwealth Games semi-final against Australia.

It means the best the Olympic champions can hope for in Birmingham is a bronze medal.

They will play Canada in that match after Fiji beat Canada 24-7 in the other semifinal.

"I’m not going to sugar coat it - it bloody sucks," said Black Ferns playmaker Tyla Nathan-Wong afterwards. "At the end of the day we work hard for those moments and unfortunately for us that snuck away."

The Black Ferns held a good 12-5 lead at halftime and spoke about being composed after the break, but Australia brought the greater intensity and completely dominated possession.

At the end, New Zealand had a final possession, position and a one-player advantage after a yellow card for Australian Teagan Levi, but they failed to make the most of it and their Games dreams came crashing down.

"It comes down to small, little things. Not being quick enough at the ruck – being turned over there," Nathan-Wong said.

"They brought it. They were hurting from their [pool] loss against Fiji. It was always going to be a good match against them, plus they were probably hurting from that Comm Games loss four years ago.

"Today we just weren’t good enough."

Skipper Sarah Hirini was emotional when facing the media afterwards but, after composing herself, spoke with honesty about what went wrong.

"Absolutely gutted to be honest," Hirini said. "Pretty emotional. I know how hard these girls will take that and the amount of work they’ve put in to get to that point and for it to be so close. But we’ve also been on the winning end of some of those games and it feels a lot better.

"We’ll soak in this one… but we still have a medal to play for. We still have to put on this jersey and do ourselves and our country proud and bring home that bronze medal hopefully.

"Watch our whoever we’re playing tomorrow – we’re coming for ya."

In what was a repeat of the final four years ago on the Gold Coast won in dramatic fashion by New Zealand, the Australians came back from their halftime deficit to control possession in the second half, with the Aussie hero rookie Maddison Levi, who scored all three of their tries.

The Black Ferns had gone into the knockout game after putting hosts England to the sword in their final pool match but struggled with the pressure exerted by Australia after the break, although the Kiwis were helped by a yellow card on Teagan Levi with time up after she was adjudged to have pulled Portia Woodman’s long braided hair in a tackle.

Australia's Sharni Williams reacts to the fulltime whistle.

In the final seconds after Levi’s sinbinning, the Black Ferns opted for a scrum but Australia swarmed the subsequent breakdown, and, while the ball was knocked on, time was up for the Black Ferns.

Hirini said she was confident her side could win when being given the final possession.

"When we’ve got a little sniff, an opportunity, when we’ve got the ball, I back our team 100 per cent to get over the line," she said. "Unfortunately we didn’t and that’s the hard thing about sevens and a semifinal match."

Earlier, New Zealand responded to Maddison Levi's first try with a score by Woodman on the right after good early work by Kelly Brazier and Michaela Blyde and an accurate pass by Nathan-Wong.

And the Black Ferns appeared in control when Theresa Fitzpatrick scored a converted try after a beautiful cut move with Nathan-Wong for a good halftime lead.

But after an untidy re-start by Australia, Levi was over in left corner in Hirini’s attempted tackle.

With just under four minutes remaining, Brazier dropped the re-start to put more pressure on New Zealand.

And with Australia holding possession, albeit going backwards, Levi finished off a breakout move for her third try which was converted and gave Australia a 17-12 lead with less than a minute to play.

"We just didn’t hold on to the ball for long periods … we know if we do that it’s a lot easier to score tries and we just couldn’t retain the ball," Hirini said.

The semifinal was clearly the most intense match the Black Ferns had played at this year's Games but Hirini said the comfortable victories over Sri Lanka, Canada and England during pool play hadn't adversely affected her side.

"I don’t think so. Canada and England on their days are bloody good teams."