New Zealand, Fiji, Great Britain and France are through to the Olympic semi-finals and just two victories away from a gold medal following a drama-filled day of high quality rugby sevens action at Tokyo Stadium.
There will be a new Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020 after defending champions Australia were knocked out of medal contention on day two of the women’s Olympic sevens tournament as Fiji secured a stunning 14-12 win in the quarter-finals.
Australia were hoping to repeat their gold medal performance from Rio 2016 but lost their final match of the pool stage against the USA, also 14-12, before Fiji overpowered them in the afternoon session.
Tries from Alowesi Nakoci and Ana Maria Naimasi gave the Fijiana a 14-0 lead with less than four minutes gone, and although Faith Nathan and Charlotte Caslick crossed in the second half the Australians could not reel them in.
Top seeds New Zealand booked their place in the last four with a comfortable 36-0 defeat of the Russian Olympic Committee team (ROC).
Portia Woodman scored two of the Black Ferns Sevens’ six tries, while Michaela Blyde took her tally for the tournament to six.
Jasmine Joyce, meanwhile, scored a try in each half to help Great Britain into the medal semi-finals with a 21-12 win over the USA.
Joyce crossed either side of an Abbie Brown effort to give her side a 21-0 lead, which Great Britain were able to defend despite late tries from Kristi Kirshe and Naya Tapper.
France stand between Great Britain and the gold medal match after they recovered from conceding the first try against China to win their medal quarter-final 24-10.
China’s Tang Minglin’s two tries came at the beginning and the end of the match, but in-between time France secured victory thanks to scores from Séraphine Okemba (two), Caroline Drouin and Anne-Cécile Ciofani.
Canada, bronze medallists in Rio, narrowly missed out on the medal quarter-finals on points scored, but they made sure they would contest the ninth-place play-off with a 45-0 defeat of Brazil in Friday’s second session.
Kenya will play Canada on day three after Camilla Atieno scored on the final play of their fifth-place semi-final against Japan to secure a 21-17 win.
A new women’s Olympic rugby sevens champion will be crowned in Tokyo on Saturday, and Fiji will take on Rio 2016 silver medallists New Zealand in the first medal semi-final at 11:00 local time (GMT+9) hoping to emulate their male counterparts.
Saturday’s second medal semi-final kicks off at 11:30 local time and features Great Britain, who beat the USA in the last eight, and France, who overcame China, as the remaining four teams set their sights on the gold medal.
Regardless of the results of the two matches all four teams are guaranteed to play in a medal match at Tokyo Stadium on day three.
Following New Zealand’s pool stage win against the ROC, Portia Woodman admitted she is driven by the hurt of missing out on gold five years ago.
Woodman, who took her Olympic try tally to 14 on day two, is one of seven Rio 2016 survivors in the Black Ferns Sevens squad in Tokyo.
“I have the photo of me crying underneath the goalposts cemented in my brain until this tournament is finished,” Woodman said.
“That is my inspiration. It is not that I dwell on it or I think about it too much, but it is my inspiration to never feel like that again [and to] put everything out there.”
Fiji and New Zealand have met 16 times in international sevens and the Black Ferns Sevens have won on each occasion — including twice at the recent Oceania Sevens.
The Fijiana though have impressed in Tokyo so far, and have beaten Canada and Australia — the bronze and gold medallists at Rio 2016 — en route to the last four.
On the other side of the draw, Great Britain will take on France for the first time at this level looking to go at least one step further than they did at Rio 2016.
Great Britain were beaten in the medal semi-finals five years ago and then lost the bronze medal match to Canada.
Although France have never played Great Britain — or Scotland or Wales — at this level, Les Bleues have faced England on 18 occasions, winning nine of them including eight of the last 10.
Another victory on Saturday would put France into the gold medal match and continue a remarkable campaign for a team that only booked their ticket to Tokyo at last month’s World Rugby Sevens Repechage in Monaco.
Day three of the women’s tournament will get under way at 09:00 local time (GMT+9) as Brazil and Japan meet in the 11th-place play-off, before Canada and Kenya face off for ninth.
The first fifth-place semi-final, featuring the ROC and Australia, will then kick-off at 10:00 local time before the USA and China take to the Tokyo Stadium pitch to contest the second at 10:30.
In the afternoon session, the winners of those matches will contest the fifth-place play-off at 17:00 local time after the two losing teams have completed the seventh-place play-off.
The bronze medal match is then scheduled to kick-off at 17:30 local time (GMT+9), before the Tokyo 2020 women’s Olympic sevens tournament is brought to an end by the gold medal match at 18:00.