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Q. This year, what do the NBA Golden Gate Warriors and the New Zealand Women’s Sevens side have in common?
A. Both teams won their sport’s championships losing but one game. (Warriors in NBA playoffs, Black Ferns in the six season events.)
The Black Ferns dominated the 2016/2017 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, regaining the top spot after relinquishing the title last year (and the Olympic gold medal) to rival Australia.
But this season, a regrouped team achieved an amazing 35-1, six-tournament record, losing only one match, and that was to the USA in the Sydney event. The Kiwis scored 116 points out of a possible 120 (20 points for winning a tournament), with five event gold medal wins and one bronze for third place.
Overall, in this, the fifth World Rugby Women’s Sevens season, New Zealand have won the title for the fourth time. They finished second last year to Australia, and won silver in Rio.
But in a reversal of outcomes this year, the Aussies lost to New Zealand in three finals, and were never able to challenge their Down Under rivals for the cup. Australia did finish second, beating Canada in the semis in France, and relegating the Canadians to third place.
Of note: the Kiwis and Canada have placed in the top four places during all the five tournaments that started in 2012/2013. Australia and England have placed in the top four places on four occasions. The USA and Fiji record one fourth place finish each.
The Black Ferns are unquestionably the favorites to win gold in next year’s World Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco. Stars like Portia Woodman, Ruby Tui, and Michaela Blyde (who led all try scorers with 40 this season) are returning.