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10:56 AM Fri, Nov. 16th

Aussies win first rugby gold medal

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Australia has won the first gold medal for rugby sevens at the Olympics, beating archrival New Zealand 24-17 in the women’s final Monday night.

The women’s world series champions conceded an early try to Kayla McAlister but rallied with two tries before halftime and another two after the break to take a 24-5 lead.

Emma Tonegato’s early equalizer for Australia was contentious after she appeared to fumble as she crashed over in the corner but referee Alhambra Nievas awarded it after checking with both assistant referees.

Evania Pelite scored in the corner on the stroke of halftime, moments after New Zealand star Portia Woodman was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick scored for the Australians before New Zealand cut the margin with late tries from McAlister and Woodman.

Ghislaine Landry led Canada to the bronze medal, scoring two tries and landing four conversions in a 33-10 win over Britain.

Meanwhile, Japan is off to its best start in women’s basketball in 20 years after routing host Brazil 82-66 Monday night for a second straight victory.

The Japanese didn’t qualify in 2008 or 2012 and won only once in 2004. Now they are a win from matching their three victories in Atlanta when Japan went 3-5 and finished seventh.

Japan led 47-33 at halftime. The Japanese built that lead to as much as 27 in the third before Brazil went on a 12-4 run to get within 66-47, giving the home fans a reason to roar and stomp their feet. Mika Kurihara ended the run with her 3 with 1:15 left in the quarter.

Brazil never got closer than 16 the rest of the way, though fans stuck around and cheered to the final seconds.

Ramu Tokashiki, who plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, led Japan with 23.

Beach volleyball has been one of the top tickets at the Olympics, but the venue at Copacabana beach has been sprinkled liberally with empty seats.

With four matches per session, fans are apparently coming to see their favorite team and then leaving. Never was that more clear than Monday, following Brazil’s three-set loss to Austria. With fans streaming out of the 12,000-seat venue, the public address announcer invited those staying behind to move down to better seats.

Another problem has been the late matches. Saturday’s match featuring defending champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner April Ross began at 12:34 a.m. Sunday morning. The times are set to draw maximum viewership in the United States, but the empty white seats look bad on TV.

The Japanese men’s gymnastics team is back on top at the Olympics.

Led by defending Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura, Japan topped Russia for gold in the men’s team final on Monday afternoon. It’s Japan’s seventh Olympic title and first since 2004. The victory fills in on the one hole on Uchimura’s resume. The six-time world champion has said for years an Olympic gold for his homeland is the only medal that matters to him.

Uchimura finished Japan’s golden run with a supremely elegant set on floor exercise.

He was visibly spent following his dismount, bending over and gasping for breath after saluting the crowd.