The Black Ferns Sevens' run of six consecutive tournament victories came to a sudden halt following a shock quarter-final defeat at the Kitakyushu Sevens this afternoon.
The World Cup champions went into the Japanese event missing six frontline players, including try-scoring duo Portia Woodman and Michaela Blyde, as well as playmaker Kelly Brazier, but they still would have rated their chances for a fourth series win in 2019 having been crowed champions the previous two years in Kitakyushu.
However, they failed to make the semifinals for the first time in a World Series event since December 2017 when handed a 26-19 quarter-final defeat by the United States.
The early tournament exit came after New Zealand struggled into the quarter-finals with a draw against Russia followed by a defeat to France in pool play on day one.
The quarter-final defeat also ended New Zealand's impressive tournament winning run which began at the Japanese tournament last year.
The early exit didn't turn out to be a massive blow to New Zealand's series lead which sat at 12 points before the Kitakyushu Sevens event. New Zealand were able to limit the damage by winning the fifth-placed playoff, while the US were handed a semifinal exit by Canada which cushioned the blow somewhat for the Sarah Hirini-captained side.
Canada won the tournament, with a try on the last play of the final giving them a 7-5 win over England, and vaulting them into second spot on the series ladder. However, the Black Ferns Sevens still lead by six points over Canada, and eight over the USA, with just two rounds remaining.
New Zealand were playing catch-up for most of the quarter-final after the US opened the scoring in the third minute through Naya Tapper.
New Zealand debutant Dhys Faleafaga closed the gap two minutes later before the US scored either side of halftime with tries to Kris Thomas and Alev Kelter.
Down 19-5, two tries to Niall Williams tied up the game going into the final two minutes. However, US substitute Kristi Kirshe scored the match-winner to confirm New Zealand's exit from the main draw.
"We sometimes didn't have patience and that hurts you in sevens. A couple of one-on-one tackles really let us down and they scored some pretty easy tries," Hirini said after the defeat.
"The USA are an awesome team and have been amazing on the World Series for the last few tournaments. They played well, and unfortunately for us, we didn't."
Defending Series winners Australia were also knocked out in the quarters, defeated by England 21-7, the first time in series history that both transtasman sides failed to make the final four.
The Black Ferns Sevens bounced back in the fifth-place playoff semifinal with an impressive 36-0 thrashing of Russia, before a strange 34-26 victory over Australia to confirm fifth overall.
The Kiwis raced out to a 29-0 halftime lead, with Hirini scoring twice, before Tyla Nathan-Wong crossed shortly after halftime for New Zealand's sixth try, giving them a 34-0 buffer.
Remarkably, though, Australia came charging back, scoring four tries in four minutes, converting three to make it 34-26.
However, they had left their run far too late, with the Black Ferns Sevens holding on to claim fifth overall and the 12 competition points that came with it.