NZ winger Woodman lighting up women's sevens rugby
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) There's no better finisher in women's rugby sevens than Portia Woodman.
Finishing tries is the forte of the woman called `Porsh,' and she's scored in all four of her matches at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, including the 5-0 match-winner against the United States in the quarterfinals on Sunday to propel New Zealand into the medal rounds.
Yet, Woodman's speed wasn't the highlight on day two of the women's competition, but rather the powerful defense she and her teammates produced.
With the stakes higher, she simply burned every opponent who came near her.
In the morning Pool B decider against France, the first serious test of world champion New Zealand, the 5-foot-7 (1.69-meter) winger flattened forward Elodie Guiglion, then bowled over two defenders in scoring a first-half try, her fifth of the tournament. In the second half, Woodman put Jessy Tremouliere on her back, and set up Kayla McAlister for the last try in the 26-7 win.
Against the Americans, Woodman smashed over Lauren Doyle to force a turnover. The quarterfinal was distinguished by defense, especially when New Zealand led by five and played a woman down for two minutes with 3 1/2 minutes to go. They held on.
Of her big hits, Woodman said, ''I was just vibing off all the girls. We're pretty much all connected, and when someone's firing, we're all firing.''
She said they trained often to deal with yellow cards, and knew what to do when Tyla Nathan-Wong was sin-binned for a late tackle.
''All we could think was coach saying, `You've got two minutes, six players, tough it out,''' she said. ''It's tougher to do mentally than physically because you always know you're one down, and there's so much more space there. It's crazy how much the difference one person makes.''
Her try originated from a scrum, McAlister drew two defenders on the halfway line, and Woodman out-ran them on the outside to the posts.
''She's a superwoman,'' she said of McAlister. ''She brings in two players and leaves me out there wide, so it's an easy job for me. All my tries have come from her.''
It seems so. They have become one of the great partnerships in rugby. Both were netballers who were among more than 1,100 who answered a `Go4Gold' initiative in 2012 to put together a New Zealand women's sevens team for these Olympics. They stood out immediately, developed a seemingly telepathic understanding, and were key to New Zealand winning the first three women's world series, and the Sevens World Cup.
McAlister, whose brother Luke was an All Black, was the first world women's sevens player of the year in 2013, and Woodman was honored in 2015.
Woodman is the all-time leading try-scorer in women's world series history, with 119 over four seasons. She's been top try-scorer in the series three times, and last year became only the fifth player - man or woman - to score more than 50 tries (52) in a single series.
Her father, Kawhena, and uncle Fred were All Blacks in the 1980s, and she said she's followed her dad's advice on the field since she was aged 7, and beating boys.
''My Dad told me way back when I started,'' she said, ''just get the ball and run like heck.''