Dubai: Two-time World Player of the Year Michaela Blyde ushered in early birthday celebrations with a fantastic showing that helped New Zealand to a 24-14 triumph against Canada to claim the women’s crown at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Friday.
Blyde, who will be turning 23 on December 29, has been a consistent performer for the Black Ferns Sevens since her debut as a 17-year-old way back in 2013.
She was the top try scorer of the 2016-17 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series to be named the 2017 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.
Her consistency showed through the following season as she earned the same accolade for the second time running in 2018.
The Black Ferns Sevens created their own bit of history earlier in the quarter-finals in their 31-0 romp over Russia. After a Kelly Brazier brace had given them a 14-0 cushion at half-time, Gayle Broughton celebrated her 50th try in World Series, and then after Sarah Goss had got one herself, it was Blyde entering an elite club while becoming only the fifth woman to score 100 tries with her fourth try of the weekend.
It was Blyde’s hat-trick of tries that helped the Black Ferns to an emphatic 22-0destruction of the USA in the semi-finals. And then in the final, it was Blyde again as the girl from New Plymouth playing her defensive role to perfection for a 24-14 win and the title.
Blyde’s career milestone makes her only the second New Zealander to score 100 tries, and the fifth in the history of the series.
This was the fourth success for the New Zealanders in Dubai following wins in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Last year, they had failed to achieve even a top-three finish. Overall, coach Allan Bunting’s sevens side has dominated the Women’s Sevens Series since its creation in 2012. The team are the current Sevens World Champions having beaten Canada in the Rugby World Cup final in Moscow in 2013. With the Dubai title, the New Zealanders extended their winning streak to 39 games, and have now won their last five tournaments, including the Rugby World Cup Sevens and the Commonwealth Games.
There was plenty of action in the quarter-finals as USA defeated France 12-10 in a repeat of the Cup semi-final in Glendale last month in which the hosts had narrowly won 21-19. Setting up another thriller was Lauren Doyle with her 49th career try to ensure the Americans made it to the last four.
And in a revenge of Thursday’s 26-12 loss, defending champions Australia bounced back in style for a 27-12 reverse result to end England’s run in the main Cup with Evania Pelite securing a double. Canada rightly booked the fourth spot in the semis with a 24-7 thrashing of Ireland with Kaili Lukan and a double from Bianca Farella giving the Canadians a 19-0 lead at half-time.
Australia didn’t get their act going as Bianca Farella came up with a try with 13 seconds remaining and help Canada kick out the reigning champions and send them for a third-place play-off with the USA. Eventually, that proved to be the only consolation for Australia as young Lily Dick stole a last-gasp try that eventually helped Australia to a consolation 26-21 win over the Americans.
Final: New Zealand bt Canada 24-14
Third place: Australia bt USA 26-21
Fifth place: Russia bt England 12-7
Seventh place: France bt Ireland 17-5
Challenge Trophy: China bt Spain 12-7
11th place: Fiji bt Kenya 19-5