Australia win women’s sevens tournament in Dubai

Dubai, Dec 4, 2015: Australia claimed the opening round of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Dubai on Friday, beating Russia 33-12 in front of a packed house at 7he Sevens Stadium.

Despite losing their inspirational captain Sharni Williams to injury on day two, the girls in gold remained unbeaten all through the tournament.

Russia’s form over the two days was sublime, but in the final they met an experienced and focused Australia side. The Russians were given little ball and when they did gain possession, Australia’s defence was on point.

Tries from Amy Turner and Nicole Beck gave Australia a 10-0 lead but Russia hit back with Alena Mikhaltsova’s effort on the stroke of half-time and then hit the front after Marina Petrova’s try.

It was left to one of the quickest women in the series in Ellia Green to provide the spark and Australia secured the title in style after further tries from Green, Emilee Cherry and Evania Pelite.

Speaking after the final whistle, victorious Australia captain Shannon Parry said: “That was an epic final and to play in front of such a crowd in Dubai was absolutely sensational. We’ve put a lot of hard work into pre-season and I was really proud of our performance. I’m looking forward to the next round (in Brazil) and then onwards towards Rio.”

Plate final and third place play-off
Extra-time was called for in both the Plate final between series champions New Zealand and Canada and the third place play-off battle involving England and France. The third place play-off was an open game, with both sides using every single blade of grass. England had their noses in front at the break but a late France score from Camille Grassineau gave France the chance to steal the game. Christelle le Duff’s conversion didn’t reach the posts and golden points ensued. England launched attack after attack and after what must have seemed like a lifetime, they eventually broke down the French defensive wall thanks to the bulldozing running of Heather Fisher.

The Plate final was between two teams that many believed would have been in the Cup final and it proved to be a thriller. Canada started strongly only for New Zealand, who until now had never failed to reach the title decider in Dubai, to battle back and at full-time it was locked at 19-19. The golden points were always going to come from something special and that was Gayle Broughton’s dancing feet to secure victory.

Russia were made to work hard against England in their Cup semi-final and it looked to be heading to extra-time with the scores locked at 12-12.

However one of the standout players of the match, Baizat Khamidova, stepped up and delivered a perfect offload which put Marina Petrova in for the decisive score.

In the other Cup semi-final, Australia totally overpowered France. The Australians were clearly boosted after their victory over New Zealand and surged to a 26-0 victory with Ellia Green again excelling.

Day two of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series started with the four Cup
quarter-finals. After a slower start Russia continued their dominant form pushing past Spain 24-0 with doubles from Alena Mikhaltsova and Maria Perestiak.

Next up, France delivered the first close encounter of the day by toppling Fijiana, the side that had been the form team of day one. The experienced Christelle le Duff was instrumental in all areas of the game scoring and coverting two tries in the 19-12 win.

The third quarter-final witnessed two great local rivals clashing with force as Australia met New Zealand. It was a classic tussle however the electric Green proved to be the difference for Australia as they battled back to win 15-12.

Finally, England were pushed all the way by Canada in a second thrilling match. Vicky Fleetwood’s late break set up the decisive score for Joanne Watmore, much to the relief of coach Simon Middleton watching on.

Bowl semi-finals
Ireland’s game against Brazil proved to be a step too far for the team returning to the series as a core team. The girls in green couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Brazilians, who scored five tries and enjoyed themselves in the morning sunshine. Ireland, though, will have a lot of learnings to take away from this tournament.
In the second semi-final the USA’s difficult time continued as Japan, the other new core team for 2015-16, showed great tenacity to fight back from 14-10 down and take the victory with the final play of that match.

Plate semi-finals
Spain and Canada met in the first Plate semi-final. Canada’s Kayla Moleschi crossed after 45 seconds but Spain collected themselves and it was level at the break. In the second half the Canadians put their foot on the gas with two further tries and booked their place in the Plate final.
In the second semi-final Fiji found themselves facing New Zealand and in the opening half found life hard-going. Chris Cracknell’s Fijiana showed a spot of character pulling themselves back from 21-5 down but the match was about the world champions and Portia Woodman scored her 100th HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series try.

The action rolls onto Brazil in February where Sao Paulo hosts the action in the next round, before trips to Atlanta and Langford, Canada. —- worldrugby

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