NZ men and women cap world series crowns by winning France Sevens finals
TOULOUSE, France (AP) — New Zealand men and women capped their rugby world series titles by winning dramatic France Sevens finals from behind on Sunday.
The men rallied from 19-7 down against Argentina to level and win 24-19 in extra time. By reaching the final, New Zealand clinched a 14th series from 24 total with one tournament to spare.
The women secured their series crown on Friday and topped it by coming from 14-0 down against the United States and winning their final 19-14.
Their 36th successive win — only one off their own record streak of 37 in 2018-19 — earned the New Zealanders a sixth straight tournament win. They lost only once in the entire series, to Australia in the final of the opening tournament in Dubai.
In four finals this season between men's series leaders New Zealand and Argentina, this was the best yet.
Regan Ware scored a first-minute try but nothing else went right for New Zealand in the first half.
Luciano Gonzalez's punishing counterattack set up German Schulz's tying try.
When New Zealand's Akuila Rokolisoa was sin-binned, Argentina used the numbers to get Agustin Fraga across. Just before halftime, Marcos Moneta intercepted Moses Leo's offload and Argentina led 19-7.
Twice, Moneta kicked and chased the ball into the in-goal only to see the ball roll out the back.
Rokolisoa launched New Zealand's comeback with a brilliant solo try from a scrum inside his own 22, then Roderick Solo used stolen lineout ball to fend off Moneta and score for 19-19. Rokolisoa couldn't convert from a handy position, and Argentina blew a last-seconds tap penalty chance outside the New Zealand 22.
In extra time, New Zealand forced a knock on, scrummed, and Solo beat Moneta on the outside. His corner touch down with Moneta around his waist survived a video review.
“It was just go for the corner and hope for the best,” Solo said.
New Zealand won its women's pool match with the U.S. 31-12 on Friday, but the U.S. reached the final after upsetting Australia 10-7 in the semifinals.
Heavy underdog in the final, the U.S. exploited a first-minute yellow card to New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini by scoring two converted tries.
Naya Tapper and Kristi Kirshe put the U.S. 14-0 ahead by the time Hirini returned.
When America's Alena Olsen was sin-binned, New Zealand put Stacey Waaka over the tryline.
New Zealand still trailed by two in the second half after clever passing between Tyla Nathan-Wong and Risi Pouri-Lane sent Jazmin Felix-Hotham clear to the posts.
The pressure by New Zealand was relentless, and from a tap penalty close to the U.S. line, Waaka went over for her second try of the final.
“I'm pretty gutted with how I played,” Hirini said, “but man, to go 14 points down against a team like that and then to come back and grind out a win, I’m so proud of the group and the season we've had.”
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