- Australia beat USA to win first round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 in Dubai
The series runners-up from 2016-17 and Rio gold medallists produced a dominant display of flowing rugby to dazzle the packed out stands at the series opener and achieve their first tournament win since Atlanta in 2016 and their first Dubai win since 2015.
USA looked in fine fettle after their earlier Cup quarter-final win over series champions New Zealand but it was a one-sided affair in the final as Australia ran in six tries to take the overall lead in the series.
Dream Team nominee Emma Tonegato opened the proceedings in the final, scoring after a beautiful bit of interlinking play with Charlotte Caslick and Emilee Cherry. Captain Sharni Williams followed up with a clever blindside break down the left wing to score Australia’s second, which was soon added to by Dream Team nominee Evania Pelite. In the second half, Cherry ran in an easy try after the ball spilled out in on the 22-metre line, and then set up Dominque Du Toit for their fifth try. Du Toit rounded off the game with an easy clean break through the middle of the USA defence following a lineout.
Australia will head into the next round of the series in Sydney on 26 January, buoyed by their result in Dubai but also one step closer to a strong seeding at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in July next year, which will be seeded based on last year’s series points combined with the first two rounds of the 2018 series.
USA 21-12 Russia The formidable Alev Kelter used all her nouse to slice through the Russia defence and score two tries in the first five minutes against Russia in the first Cup semi-final. With early pressure mounting, it was Elena Zdrokova who managed to claw a try back, which was followed up quickly by Dream Team nominee Baizat Khamidova, who sped down the left wing to run a try in from 35 metres. In the 13th minute, and the score at 14-12 to USA, Nicole Heavirland put the game out of reach to leave the score 21-12.
Australia 25-7 Canada Australia looked lethal from the start against Canada in their semi-final, as Tonegato blitzed down the left wing to leave the defence in her wake and open the scoring. Caslick followed up two minutes later and then Pelite scored a great solo try after a huge hand off gave her the momentum to burst through the Canada defence. Canada Ghislaine Landry got one try back but the momentum was firmly with Australia as Pelite got her second and Cherry finished off a well-rounded performance to get her side into the final.
Cup quarter-finals The first Cup quarter-final of the day brought about one of the biggest upsets from the past two series as New Zealand were beaten by USA 14-12. The Black Ferns Sevens hadn’t lost a match since Sydney back in January, and hadn’t failed to get to a Cup semi-final since Dubai in 2015. It was a cheeky “show and go” try from Kelsi Stockert and conversion from Kelter that made the difference in the dying second to give USA a historic win.
A brace of tries from Khamidova, followed up by two from Alena Mikhaltsova gave Russia a comfortable 20-0 win over Spain. In the following quarter-final it was a well executed 29-12 victory over England for Australia who had three tries within seven minutes thanks to Tonegato, Emma Sykes and Pelite. The final two scores from Du Toit and Mahalia Murphy were enough to close out the game, despite scores from England’s Amy Wilson Hardy and Heather Fisher.
The fourth quarter-final of the day was the most tense as Canada and France went to extra time at 19-19. Canada had a chance to snatch the game in normal time, but Landry was unable to slot the conversion following Julia Greenshields’ late try. In extra time, and following a huge number of phases, it was eventually Breanne Nicholas who secured the Cup semi-final spot for Canada, winning the game 24-19.