New Zealand women show mettle

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 12:00am

'I think we made it a bit harder on ourselves tonight'

Australia had no chance of winning last night's Hong Kong's Women's Rugby Sevens. The motivating forces were all with New Zealand (Aotearoa) - a turncoat on the other side and a legend waiting to present the winner's trophy.

New Zealand arrived in Hong Kong this week to find their former Sevens captain - Anna Richards - playing in the green and gold of Australia. Shock, was putting it mildly.

Then, yesterday morning they found out Jonah Lomu would be on the winner's rostrum to shake their hands. The girls were delirious after their 10-0 win.

'Just to meet him is an honour,' said triumphant captain Annie Brown of the former All Black hero-worshipped wherever he went last night. 'It was a real buzz for me.'

So was 'smashing' the Aussies and in particular Richards, whom Brown had faced many times in New Zealand.

'It was a shock to see her here. One of our biggest motivators was seeing one of our players in different colours,' said Brown, who may have been playing her last game for New Zealand, along with vice-captain Kellie Kiwi, one of the two try-scorers. Honey Hireme grabbed the other in a hard-fought and physical encounter.

New Zealand coach Peter Joseph was also gobsmacked to find a former star player lining up for the 'enemy'.

'She [Richards] is still a current Black Fern in New Zealand in the 15-a-side game and I've got no idea how she got into an Australia jersey,' Joseph said. 'I only found out she was in the side when we came here and the tournament started.'

Joseph said they had a plan to target Richards, who has played twice in Hong Kong with the full New Zealand team. 'We knew her play but she also knew ours. In the end I said 'just shut her out', she's just another player. When she's out there in green she's just another player and they are all targets,' he said, adding with a smile: 'I don't think she would make it into this team.'

Joseph has coached the New Zealand team for the past five years. 'We've been coming here for three years and won each time. We beat England last year and US the year before. I think we made it a bit harder on ourselves tonight. The conditions didn't help. But there was that intensity - New Zealand versus Australia and with a former New Zealand Sevens captain playing for Australia, it added a bit more.'