Rugby: Australia, New Zealand come through scares to reach semis

Sun Aug 7, 2016 7:19pm EDT
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By Nick Mulvenney

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - New Zealand and Australia were both given a fright by the United States but remained on course to meet in the inaugural Olympic women's sevens final by reaching the semi-finals unbeaten in Rio on Sunday.

World series champions Australia needed a late converted try to draw 12-12 with the Americans in the pool stage in the afternoon but blanked Spain 24-0 in the evening to set up a meeting on Monday with Canada, who beat France 15-5.

New Zealand had romped into their quarter-final against the Americans but were forced to defend a 5-0 lead with only six players for three minutes of the second half before securing their passage to a semi-final against Britain, 26-7 winners over Fiji.

"Full credit to our girls, to defend our line with six like that was awesome," said New Zealand's Kelly Brazier.

"Defense wins games and we pride ourselves on that. A win's a win, 5-0, 2-0, we'll take it."

After racking up 109 points in their first three matches, New Zealand had been held to just one Portia Woodman try, her sixth of tournament, when American flyer Jessica Javelet was taken down chasing a kick through.

The referee decided against a penalty try but New Zealand's Tyla Nathan-Wong was sent to the sin bin, setting up the dramatic conclusion to the second day's action at the Deodoro Stadium.

Australia's progress was smoother, Charlotte Caslick scored a brace and Emma Tonegato once to both move to six tries for the tournament, but coach Tim Walsh admitted his side had been far from their best.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Rugby - Preliminary - Women's Pool A Australia v USA  - Deodoro Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016.  Emma Tonegato (AUS) of Australia scores as she is tackled by Leyla Alev Kelter (USA) of USA.  REUTERS/Phil Noble