Sevens women on brink of World Series title
RUGBY SEVENS: The Qantas Australian Women's team has finished a creditable third at the Canada Sevens in Langford this morning (AEST).
With a squad averaging just 22 years old, Australia saw off Spain (28-0) in the Cup Quarter-Final before falling just short against England (15-5). The girls in gold bounced back to see off France (19-12) in the 3rd Place Play-Off.
Australia's 16-point haul means Tim Walsh's side needs to finish in sixth position or higher in France next month to take the country's maiden Sevens World Series crown.
"I was pleased with a few players that stood up over the weekend but the England game was one I really think we should have won. We created enough opportunities," women's Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said.
"I thought Chloe Dalton was outstanding over the weekend and was a player that applied herself really well. We talked to her about the areas we think she needs to improve, and like a student, has gone away and come back even better. Chloe showed physicality, good speed and her kicking technique and accuracy continues to improve.
"Dom du Toit was another I felt made good strides forward but I have full confidence in the entire playing group we have."
Shannon Parry was named in the international dream team at the end of the Tournament in Canada.
On potentially securing the Sevens World Series next month, Walsh added: "France is at the forefront of our mind, no doubt about that. Our aim at the start of the season was to perform well at each tournament and then the World Series would take care of itself.
"We would be a very proud team and honoured if we do win the title - it would be the perfect preparation as we head to the Rio Olympics in August."
Australia got its Finals Day off to the perfect start by dismantling a Spanish side that had no answer to the Aussies' accuracy both with the ball and at the breakdown. Brooke Walker opened the scoring after just 52 seconds after some impressive ball retention in Spanish territory. Classic interplay between Emilee Cherry and Nicole Beck saw the former double her sides advantage at the break.
The pattern of the second half continued in much the same vein with Cherry dotting down for the second time after being found by Walker. Amy Turner wrapped things up midway through the second half when she capitalised on a loose ball in midfield to race clear and quash any thoughts of a Spanish comeback.
Despite the young Aussies controlling long periods of the Cup Semi-Final, it was an experienced England outfit that progressed to the Final. The girls in gold bossed the opening exchanges but with their first meaningful period of possession Emily Scarratt out-paced the Australian defence and cut inside to give the English an early lead.
Another extended period of play in England territory saw Brooke Walker beautifully draw in the defence to find Nicole Beck who in turn found Tiana Penitani to bring the scores level at half-time.
The same pattern of play continued for the second half but a dropped ball deep inside Australian territory was seized upon by Abbie Brown to restore England's lead. Joanne Watmore then extended the advantage when she outstripped Australia's right defence to score. Despite creating numerous opportunities to get themselves back into the match, Australia couldn't turn them into points and England progressed to its first Cup Final of the season.
In the 3rd Place Play-Off game, it was France who deservedly drew first blood after dominating the early stages. Camille Grassineau eventually broke the Australian resistance but the French soon surrendered their lead when Georgie Friedrichs fed Mahalia Murphy to turn the game around.
Emilee Cherry once again led by example throughout and it was her delightful chip and chase that caught the French on the back foot with the Roma-born centre burning the opposition defence to dot down. France would not go down without a fight and Jessy Tremouliere brought her side level, however it was Amy Turner who would have the final say when Cherry broke the line once again after the siren to feed the 32-year-old utility and she made no mistake.
Elsewhere in Langford, England - playing in its first Cup Final since 2013 - won the title after beating New Zealand (31-14), while hosts Canada defeated Spain (21-5) to take the Plate and finish fifth.
Australia lead the series standings with 76 points, 12 clear of second-placed New Zealand. Following its strong showing in Langford, England (60 points) has jumped into third spot ahead of Canada (54 points).
The 2015-16 World Rugby Women's Sevens Series heads to France for the final leg of the season in Clermont-Ferrand on the weekend of 28-29 May.
Qantas Australian Women's Sevens results for the Canada Sevens at Westhills Stadium, Langford, 17-18 April:
Australia 12-7 France, Pool A
Australia 26-7 Brazil, Pool A
Australia 21-7 Russia, Pool A
Australia 28-0 Spain, Cup Quarter-Final
Australia 5-15 England, Cup Semi-Final
Australia 19-12 France, 3rd Place Play-Off
Final placings for the Canada Sevens (Top 6): 1. England (20 World Series points), 2. New Zealand (18 points), 3. Australia (16 points), 4. France (14 points), 5. Canada (12 points), 6. Spain (10 points)
Current 2015-16 Women's Sevens World Series standings (Top 6 - after four rounds): 1. Australia (76 World Series points), 2. New Zealand (64 points), 3. England (60 points), 4. Canada (54 points), 5. France (48 points), 6. Russia (38 points)
Australian Rugby Union