Australia have lost 21-17 to New Zealand in the final of the women's rugby sevens world series event in Canada but they took a giant stride towards Olympic qualification.
Playing with more physicality than co-captain Sharni Williams could remember, the Australians matched the top-ranked Kiwis' three tries in a thrilling decider in Langford on Monday (AEDT) but couldn't prevent a sixth straight loss in trans-Tasman matches.
They did enough to cement their fourth placing in the series and virtually guarantee a berth at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The leading four teams after the remaining tournament in Biarritz, France in June automatically qualify.
Australia are 14 points clear of fifth-ranked France so will be assured of lining up for their gold medal defence if they reach the quarter-finals.
The return from injury of Charlotte Caslick was a boost for the Olympic champions, whose 29 tries in the Canada event was six more than New Zealand managed.
Ellia Green scored eight of them, including a double in the final while Emma Tonegato also crossed on the stroke of halftime to leave Australia trailing 14-12.
Tonegato bagged a brace in the crucial 26-19 semi-final win over France, in the process becoming the third Australian to reach a century of world series tries.
Green's ball-jolting early hit on Niall Williams - the sister of All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams - indicated straight away the Australians wouldn't lie down as they did in last year's Langford decider, when beaten 46-0 by the Kiwis.
"We were a lot more physical than we have ever been and I'm very proud of the girls," Sharni Williams said.
"And you can see that we're building. We're getting players back and building younger girls up into world class players.
"It's really exciting to start to see what we're starting to do."
Australia won their three pool games comfortably and accounted for Russia 31-12 in the quarter-finals.
However, they still haven't tasted success at a world series tournament for 16 months, since beating New Zealand in the 2018 Sydney final.
The Kiwis have won four of this season's five tournaments and are guaranteed of playing in Tokyo, along with the United States and Canada.
New Zealand 92, USA 80, Canada 78, Australia 74, France 60, England 47, Russia 42, Ireland 40.