Murray Wenzel / AAP News
Sisters Maddison and Teagan Levi have combined to thrust Australia past fierce rugby sevens rivals New Zealand and into the Commonwealth Games gold-medal match.
Maddison scored three tries in their comeback 17-12 win on Saturday night at Coventry Arena, the third another blazing run down the left wing set up by a pass from her sister.
They then both made desperate one-on-one tackles on powerhouse New Zealander Portia Woodman as she searched for a late match-winner, Maddison watching the final moments from the sin-bin after being sent off for a hair pull.
Victory sets up a rematch with Fiji – who shocked Australia 17-12 in the group stage – on Sunday night.
And it righted the wrongs of Gold Coast’s gold-medal game four years ago, when New Zealand pipped them in extra time.
“Yeah they (the emotions) were strong,” coach Tim Walsh, who led them to 2016 Olympic gold and this year’s world title, said.
“We’ve won a few together before but that was really, really emotional and it was (because of) the way we won it.
“I’d imagine (the Levi sisters’) mum and dad are at home bawling; it’s a pretty proud moment. So you celebrate that win, but we’ve got tomorrow to deal with.”
Maddison Levi said there was confidence despite them trailing 12-5 at halftime.
“We looked at each other in the line and said ‘how badly do you really want this,” she said.
The sisters cut short their AFLW careers with Gold Coast to sign full-time deals with Rugby Australia last year.
But it wasn’t until Saturday night in a packed stadium in Coventry that they both truly combined in their new surroundings.
“That is right up there, top tier,” Levi, who has scored nine tries in their four games, said.
“Pretty surreal; we’ve played a couple of games now and not been able to link up so to finally play with her (and combine to score) the most important try, really helped.
“And in the last few minutes, that defence, just knowing I could read her (helped too).
“It was a pretty emotional win … as much as I love AFL it was pretty much a no-brainer to come and showcase what I could do on the world stage.”
Walsh said the challenge would be to play as fearlessly in the final against an in-form Fiji.
“We were just gun shy (in the pool loss to Fiji), didn’t fire any shots,” the coach said.
“You’re never going to win when you play like that.”