When Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown hit their pillows tonight, perhaps after treating themselves to a favourite dish of "yummy prawn curry", they can reflect on a successful Olympic campaign.

Their bronze is the first Olympic medal New Zealand has won in the women's pair since Nikki Payne and Lynley Hannen took the same alloy at Seoul 24 years ago. It is also the first podium finish of the rowing programme for New Zealand at the London Games.

Some might suggest "success" is stretching it, after coming into the regatta as double defending world champions. However, they hadn't beaten the British winners all season and Australia defeated them in the heat. What few know is Haigh suffered acute tendinitis in her arm three weeks ago at their camp in Belgium and had to sit out of the boat several days. She's certainly not the type to advertise such news, conscious it could be deemed an excuse. The injury stymied their momentum but they persevered, cheered from the Dorney Lake grandstand by an army of supporters in black T-shirts with "1boat2girls.co.nz" [the name of their website] emblazoned across them in pink.

"She had to ice her arm and look after it for days," says their coach John Robinson. "I don't think the result hinged on that but it was a relief when she got back in the boat."

There was more than tendonitis to worry about in the race.

"A lot goes through the head and heart just dealing with the pain," Haigh said. "My arms were seizing up but I didn't want to do anything disastrous. I was literally hanging on and praying we could get our nose in front of the Australians."

"My [initial] feeling was we may have missed out. That's why I put my head down, I almost didn't want to look. I felt I had given every part of myself."

Scown reflected on the pleasure of getting a tangible reward for their time together. "We've had a fantastic partnership and it's nice we have this to share."

There will be disappointment Haigh and Scown couldn't sustain their world champion form into Olympic year but they can still take pride in converting pressure into a result when it counted. Haigh has been part of the last two campaigns with Nicky Coles which finished sixth and fifth respectively. Scown finally has just reward for seven years' toil in the New Zealand elite squad.

Haigh's partner Mahe Drysdale - who went through to the final in the single sculls - joked the result added to his pressure.

"I've got to try to keep the bragging rights at home. If I don't get another medal I'll be in trouble.

"I'm sure they would've wanted a better one [medal] but you take what you can get at the Olympics. They join a pretty exclusive club."

The British winners, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, tore out to an early lead of a length by the first 500m and extended it over the duration. They are the first British women's crew to win gold at an Olympics and Britain's first gold medallists at these Games. They were the form crew of the season, winning all three World Cups.

In other results the men's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond eased into their final unchallenged. They gave extinguished their competitors racing oxygen early by roaring to a two-length lead by the 1000m mark.

"From there it was a case of sitting on it; not expending too much energy," Bond said.

When asked if winning gets boring, Murray was unequivocal.

"Hell, no. We know we can win whereas all the other crews don't know they can beat us. We've beaten every crew we've come up against [over four seasons] and know we're capable."

The men's quadruple sculls missed out on their final, finishing fourth. The women's quad won their B final.