The Aussie Women’s Sevens team won their third Series Cup in a row (out of three) when they beat New Zealand 24-19 in the Atlanta final.
It didn’t look like their streak would continue on Day 1 because they were shocked going down 7-21 to England in their first loss of any game in the Series this season.
Emillee Cherry scored to tie the match at five minutes, but England were superb in scoring two converted tries in the last nine to win easily.
Later Australia put minnows Colombia away 34-0, with Emma Tonegata scoring five of the six tries, though they could have scored a couple more. Debutant 18-year-old speedster Dominique du Toit made her mark with a smoking try and some good ball work
The Pearls played their best in Day 1 when they downed Fijiana 22-5, scoring two tries in each half. Unfortunately Evania Petite injured her elbow and will be out for a month.
England was undefeated in the Pool games, as was the USA who beat NZ at the death 12-5. The Pearls would play USA in the quarters, but they had to start better on the second day than they did on the first.
Dominique du Toit scores in the corner against the USA
The Kiwi-killer Americans were not going to be easy on their home turf; but the Aussies scored early when Cherry advanced the ball near their line and dished out for Tonegato to get her seventh try of the tournament.
Then Chalotte Caslick swerved towards a tackler and passed in the same motion to, guess who, for her eighth, after an in-and-away. The Aussie Pearls were ahead 12-0 in three minutes and that was the score at half-time despite the Americans hammering their line just before the break.
The home team started disastrously in the second half when they allowed a long kick-off to go out 20 metres from their goal line and then proceeded to throw the lineout ball straight to Amy Turner playing scrum half for Australia. Although the Pearls were a player down because of a card, Cherry threaded a diagonal line to score a minute after the interval.
The USA had some good play after that but the Aussie defence was too good. Youngster du Toit came over to the right side of the field to stop an American flyer, and presently got the ball from a lineout move and stepped around a tackler for a try in the left corner.
The Aussies were ahead 22-0 with two minutes left but Jessica Javelet got a consolation try for the USA by burning all the Aussies with her pace.
Final score Australia 22 – USA 5
The other quarter-final scores were: England 19 – Russia 12; Canada 29 – Fiji 0, and New Zealand 23 – France 7.
Amy Turner gets nabbed against Canada
Australia had smashed Canada 29-0 in the Sao Paulo final seven weeks before; so revenge was in the air, but the Canucks were deflated when Caslick ran down touch before ripping a long left-handed pass for Tonegato to score under the posts.
Then Caslick ran down the sideline again but there was nobody inside to pass to; so she ran through three tacklers to dot down under the crossbar instead.
After three minutes the Pearls were ahead 14-0 and Canada were dropping the ball frequently; but just before the break Ghislane Landry, one of fastest players in Atlanta, smoked the Aussies and rounded under the posts.
Half-time score: Australia 14 – Canada 7.
Canada had their tails up after the break when they attracted too many defenders in the middle and Karen Paquin scored in the corner. The try was converted brilliantly and the game was tied 14-14 with five minutes left.
But from the kick-off Tonegato charged up the field from a mismatch and threw a money-ball to Cherry looming wide on half-way. She scored handy for Australia to lead 21-14, and then skipper Shannon Parry made a break after a dummy and passed to the sprinting Tonegato, who scored.
It was a terrific game of rugby.
Final score: Australia 26 – Canada 14.
Other semi-final score: New Zealand 25 – France 19.
Player of the Final, Charlotte Caslick, clears the ball from a scrum
Australia had met New Zealand only once before in the 2015-16 season when Ellia Green scored late in the Dubai quarters to win the match; but Green wasn’t in Atlanta this weekend.
Both sides made nervous errors following the kick-off but after Alicia Quirk stole Kiwi lineout ball, Caslick straightened the attack through poor defence to score between the sticks.
Quirk was involved again when she fielded a ropey pass on the bounce and hared for the corner to dot down with Tonegato riding shotgun inside. The Pearls led 12-0 in the fourth minute.
Things were going all Australia’s way when NZ got a lucky scrum in their own 22, but their fortune changed when they dithered with the ball on a switch and Cherry snaffled it and walked a try in with three minutes to go in the half.
But Kiwis never give up carrying a rugby ball and when they got extended possession in the Aussie 22, Selica Winiata sliced in under the posts just before the break.
Australia got some soft tries in the first half but the Kiwis showed late that they were dangerous if they could keep hold of the ball.
Half-time score: Australia 19 – NZ 7.
Chloe Dalton lines up Shiray Tane as Charlotte Caslick stands by
There was some desultory play from both sides after the interval but when Cherry tackled Stacey Waka about 30 metres out from the NZ line she got to her feet and poached the ball. Caslick outpaced defenders when she got the pass, and scored in the corner for the Pearls to lead 24-7 with 5:20 left.
With the play now all in their own half the Aussies seem content to protect their lead and it cost them as Portia Woodman shrugged, or rather bashed off, two tacklers for a try. The conversion got the Kiwis closer at 14-24.
So NZ kicked off with 2:30 remaining and ten points down.
Australia ran down the clock and although their opponents scored after the buzzer when Winiata got her second, the Aussie Pearls won their third HSBC Women’s Series tournament of 2015-16.
Final score: Australia 24 – New Zealand 19. It was the first seven minutes and 19 points that killed the Kiwis.
Aussie Emma Tonegato was voted the Player of the Tournament, and Charlotte Caslick, the Player of the Final.
Player of the Tournament, Emma Tonegato, scores against the USA
It was a good effort from the Aussie girls with some Rio-bound players at home, and after a poor start on Day 1.
On the weekend Caslick and Cherry displayed their world-class versatility and skill at the back, Quirk her high-standard utility value and Parry her non-stop tight work and linking—plus the occasional break.
Du Toit confirmed the promise she showed in the friendlies at the Sydney Sevens and looked set for a long future, and not necessarily just as a finisher either: she showed good rugby skills for an 18-year-old.
Quotes from Atlanta
Irrepressible co-commentator Dallen Stanford was in fine form:
When a Fiji player was bumped off by Chloe Pelle of France:
That hit was monstrous: Tisolo was left chewing on the grass.
He had an interesting dialogue with main commentator Scott Hastings after Emily Scarratt made a try-saving tackle at one end then followed up soon after with a run and kick through to score on her back.
Stanford: Now I know what I want for Christmas and she’s wearing number 4.
Hastings: Are you saying you want Emily Scarratt for Christmas?
Stanford: She’s so amazing…she’s the ultimate gift for English rugby… I know my wife may not be watching
Hastings struggled to give a coherent commentary afterwards: he was laughing too much.
Courtesy of HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens
2016 Atlanta Women’s Sevens Quarter Finals – Australia v USA
2016 Atlanta Women’s Sevens Semi Finals – Australia v Canada
Only some highlights available for the final.
2016 Atlanta Women’s Sevens Final Highlights – Australia v New Zealand