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New Zealand beats France to clinch gold in women’s rugby 7s

After five long years, Portia Woodman has finally been able to shake the mental image of herself in tears, standing under the goalposts.

It was like grief for something lost, but it’s been supplanted now by memories of happiness, hugs and, of course, a haka.

Woodman’s New Zealanders won a coveted Olympic title by beating France 26-12 on Saturday.

She’ll always have the memory of that 2016 final loss to Australia in Rio de Janeiro, because missing out on the first Olympic gold medal ever awarded in women’s rugby sevens was the motivating force for everything that has come since.

“Looking back on Rio, that emotion of scoring the last try but still not being able to win the game, crying underneath the posts, is definitely one that I’ve looked back on,” the 30-year-old Woodman said, before holding up her gold medal. “But now it’s gone.”

The bad memories will never be at front of mind again, she said, “Not when I look at this!”

Woodman has had to overcome an Achilles injury that may have ended her Olympic dream if the Tokyo Games weren’t delayed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She led the scoring charts in the 2016 Olympics, but shared around the tries fairly evenly this time with teammates Michaela Blyde, who topped the list with seven, and Gayle Broughton and Stacy Fluhler, who also scored five.

France had been unbeaten in five games but was never in front against New Zealand.

“We really wanted to get the gold and impose our way of playing, but it was very complicated with a lack of possession,” France captain Fanny Horta said. “We have to be proud of what we have achieved.

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