The Australian women’s rugby sevens team has fallen in the final of the Los Angeles tournament, with arch-rival New Zealand claiming back-to-back titles to close the gap atop the world series rankings.

The Australians lost 29-14 but retained a four-point lead over the Kiwis in the standings after five of eight rounds.

Michaela Blyde was the match-winner, scoring three of New Zealand’s five tries against Australia’s two.

New Zealand also won the title a week ago in Vancouver where Australia finished fourth, with the two leading nations favoured to battle for the gold medal at this year’s Paris Olympics.

They have jointly won four out of the five tournaments played so far this season.

New Zealand suffered an early setback in the final when young gun Jorja Miller was carried from the field on a stretcher after an incidental leg to the head trying to tackle Bella Nasser.

But they still managed to open the scoring through Blyde.

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Australian captain Charlotte Caslick hit straight back after capitalising on a break from Sharni Smale, only for Blyde to add her second with a great solo effort.

The women in gold were dealt a blow late in the first half with their superstar Maddison Levi yellow-carded for a high shot and New Zealand taking a 12-7 lead into the break.

They pushed that out to 22-7 with tries to skipper Risi Pouri-Lane and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.

Levi returned to score a long-range try with three minutes remaining but it wasn’t enough, with Blyde’s third try icing a convincing Kiwi victory.

“I’m so proud of the girls,” Blyde said.

“We’ve been looking for that kind of consistency over the whole season so to do that over the past two weeks feels good.

“Obviously we’re building for the big picture of the Olympic Games so this is one of the stepping stones towards it. I guess the big ask is to continue this consistency. It’s hard to be at the top.”

In the men’s final, France beat an injury-hit Great Britain 21-0 to claim their first title in the rugby sevens world series in 19 years.

The presence of 15s star Antoine Dupont has energised the France team who have moved up from seventh to fourth place on the overall standings ahead of their home Olympics.

Australia’s men finished seventh after downing the United States.


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