Olympic Rings (File)
Rio de Janeiro - Portia Woodman scored three tries for New Zealand and Charlotte Caslick did the same for Australia as the top contenders for the first Olympic gold medal in rugby sevens opened with lopsided wins.
New Zealand beat Kenya 52-0 in Pool B and Australia routed Colombia 53-0 in Pool A, the last match before an afternoon interval.
France posted some early historic marks, with Camille Grassineau crossing for the first try and the team registering the first win in Olympic rugby sevens — 24-7 against Spain — in the tournament's opening women's match.
The powerful New Zealand team had too much energy and skill for Kenya, with Woodman scoring in the opening minute of each half in her three-try haul — which could have been better except she dropped the ball when she was in the clear only meters from the tryline in the first half.
"That little fumble there doesn't happen very often," said Woodman, the daughter of a New Zealand All Black and leading try scorer in the women's world series, "but just got to scratch that and get on with it again."
The crowd grew from about 1,000 for the opening match to about half-full at the 15,000-seat Deodoro Stadium for the third game, Brazil's opening match against Britain. But the singing, samba-dancing fans couldn't help the Brazilian women much in a 29-3 loss.
Canada, which won the last stop on the world series and placed third overall, began its bid for an Olympic medal with a 45-0 win over Japan and Fiji scored the first two tries before holding off the United States 12-7 in Group A. That leaves the Americans needing a big win over Colombia later Saturday to regain confidence ahead of their last group game against world series champion Australia on Sunday.
The Australians won three of the five stops on the world series circuit this year, toppling New Zealand from the top of the women's rugby standings.
Rugby is making its return to the Olympics for the first time since 1924, when the U.S. men won the 15-a-side tournament. The 12-team tournaments run over three days, with the women's final set for Monday. The men's competition starts Tuesday.