New Zealand wins men's, women's titles at Sydney Sevens

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SYDNEY (AP) — New Zealand won both the men’s and women’s titles Sunday at the Sydney leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series, consolidating its overall lead in both series.

New Zealand women beat France 35-0 for their third-straight Sydney title, their third of the season and their 30th since the World Series began.

Tenika Willison and Jazmin Felix-Hotham scored two tries each while veteran Portia Woodman scored the last of the match, her 213th in World Series matches.

The New Zealanders were unbeaten at the tournament, averaging 35.5 points per match while conceding only four tries in six matches, none in the final.

The tone of the final was set early when Willison and Felix-Hotham both scored under the posts within the first four minutes. New Zealand led 21-0 by halftime and added two more tries in the second half.

France defended aggressively but New Zealand was able to manipulate the defense to create gaps by moving the ball quickly wide then back infield and using pace to finish.

“Winning back to back (New Zealand also won last weekend in Hamilton) is pretty hard and to come out here and have the support we’ve had in the crowd is fantastic,” New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini said.

Hirini also sent aroha (love) to family in Auckland where four people have died in flash floods since Friday.

New Zealand men beat South Africa 36-0 for their first title of the season. South Africa beat New Zealand 17-14 in group play but the Kiwis learned from that defeat and were able to hold the South Africans scoreless for the first time in nine years.

Tries to Roderick Solo, Joe Webber and captain Sam Dickson gave New Zealand a 17-0 lead at halftime. But the match was still in the balance: South Africa had rallied from a similar margin to beat New Zealand in the final at Dubai earlier in the season.

Akuila Rokolisoa scored the decisive try in the 12th minute, kicking the ball free from a South Africa scrum and re-gathering before the line. Amanaki Nicole and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black added tries before the end to make the win comprehensive.

New Zealand men have had two second placings and a third in four previous tournaments this year and were relieved to break through for their first win.

“It’s pleasing,” Dickson said. “I’m so proud of the boys and the management. We’ve been trying so hard, made a few finals and just missed out.

“It’s been an unreal tournament for us and it’s about time we produced a polished performance like that.”

The win extends New Zealand’s overall Series lead to nine points over South Africa. New Zealand women now lead by 12 points over Australia.

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