Oz, Kiwis shine as rugby sevens makes Olympic debut

  • AFP, Rio de Janeiro
  • Updated: Aug 07, 2016 09:14 IST
New Zealand players celebrate their victory in women’s rugby sevens over Spain at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio on Saturday. (AFP)

Favourites Australia and arch-rivals New Zealand were in ruthless form as rugby sevens made its Olympic debut on Saturday.

Frenchwoman Camille Grassineau grabbed a piece of history by scoring the first try of the tournament.

The Wallabies ran unfancied Colombia ragged in their opening match, Charlotte Caslick scoring a hat-trick in the 53-0 rout. There were no worries in their second game as they dispatched Fiji by a 36-0 margin.

New Zealand look the closest rivals to Australia, with Kayla McAlister --- sister of Toulouse-based former All Black Luke -- and Portia Woodman both outstanding in lop-sided wins over Kenya (52-0) and Spain (31-5).

“I’ve just got to get over that white chalk to get the points on the board. That’s my job,” said McAlister, who finished the day with four tries.

“No team is weak. This is the Olympics: every game’s a final and France is our next one which will be tough.”

The French, Canada and Britain also finished the day’s play unbeaten in blistering conditions with temperatures above 30 degrees Ccelsius at the 15,000-seater Deodoro Stadium, which was at its best half full.

It was France’s Grassineau who was first on the scoreboard, crossing for a try in her team’s opening 24-7 victory over Spain.

“The main goal was to win but the first try happened to come to me. It was a try for the team and we made a good start,” she said.

“We’ll see, if in 10 years’ time, my name is in the books!”

Spanish playmaker Patricia Garcia had the honour of kicking off.

“It was an historic moment and it was one of the best moments,” she acknowledged.

Initially a sparse crowd of barely 1,000 had entered the Deodoro Stadium, but that quickly changed under the watchful eyes of IOC president Thomas Bach, World Rugby president Bill Beaumont and guest Sachin Tendulkar, lobbying for cricket’s inclusion at the 2024 Games.

Brett Gosper, chief executive officer of World Rugby, said the hosting of the tournament was “going to plan” despite swathes of empty seats.

“We would have liked a few more people turning up,” he admitted, adding that ticket sales were at “around 70 percent on average across the six days” that included the three-day men’s competition that starts on Tuesday.

Turning to Bach, who is also due to attend the men’s final, Gosper said, “He’s a good friend of rugby, World Cups and other sevens visits that he’s made, so he likes his rugby which is great.”

The tournament signalled the first time since 1924 that rugby has been played at the Olympics and the debut for sevens, the previous four incarnations featuring men’s 15-a-side tournaments.

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