By Greg Stutchbury
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Watching New Zealand’s women win the first rugby sevens Commonwealth Games title had inspired the men’s team to complete a golden double against their respective Rio Olympic champions on Sunday, Tim Mikkelson said.
The World Cup holders in the shortened version of the game had not been favored in either final after some inconsistent performances on the world sevens circuits.
Facing a ferociously partisan crowd in the women’s final against Australia, Kelly Brazier’s 60-metre dash deep into extra-time had given the New Zealand women a 17-12 victory.
The men’s team then followed that up with a 14-0 win over Fiji to clinch their fifth Commonwealth Games title.
“We watched the women go into overtime and their win at the end really inspired us to get the double,” Mikkelson said. “It’s pretty satisfying.”
Brazier’s dash had earlier silenced a boisterous local crowd at Robina Stadium, so they switched their support to Fiji for the men’s decider.
However, New Zealand quietened them once more by jumping out to a 14-0 lead against the Rio champions inside the first four minutes and were never really threatened thereafter.
New Zealand even had an opportunity to put the game completely beyond doubt when Fiji’s Sevuloni Mocenecagi was given a yellow card for an early tackle on Sam Dickson.
The champions put Ware across as Mocenecagi watched on from off the field to extend their lead to 19-0, only for the try to be ruled out when a video replay showed the 23-year-old had lost control of the ball over the line.
Fiji looked to recover when they were restored to a full complement but Scott Curry produced two desperate cover tackles to stop what would have been sensational tries and ensure they regained the title they lost in Glasgow.
“Not many guys in this team would know the feeling of a gold medal,” Mikkelson added.
“I got one in Delhi and was part of the team that lost in Glasgow (2014), so to get this win is amazing.”
The women’s final was also characterized by a strong first half performance from New Zealand and some desperate defense before Brazier stepped up to end home hopes of victory.
Brazier’s lung-bursting effort, however, would have been in vain had Michaela Blyde, who scored one of New Zealand’s two tries in the first half, not produced two sensational cover tackles as Australia pressed in the second half.
New Zealand had opened up a 12-0 halftime lead after tries to Portia Woodman and Blyde, before Emilee Cherry exploited some poor tackling close to the line and Ellia Green outpaced the cover defense to send the contest into extra time.
“I looked at our captain (Sarah Goss) when we got the penalty and she gave me the heads-up that we’re not kicking the ball out,” Brazier said.
“We tapped it to play on and there was a gap in front of me and I went.
“I probably held back a bit looking for a pass but no-one came, so I pinned the ears back and got over the line.”
England had earlier won both bronze medals with the men beating Glasgow Games champions South Africa 21-14 while the women beat Canada 24-19.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O’Brien/Amlan Chakraborty)