Australia, Canada and New Zealand finished top of their pools as the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 kicked off at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado, on Saturday.
Defending series champions Australia had to recover from 15-0 down at half-time in their Pool A decider with Russia to make it three wins from three at the HSBC USA Women's Sevens and set up a Cup quarter-final with the hosts who finished third in Pool B.
Had the Olympic champions lost they would have been pitted into a mouth-watering encounter with Canada, who topped Pool C after a 24-10 defeat of France in which captain Ghislaine Landry became the first to score 1,000 points in women's series history. Instead, the Canadians will face Russia.
New Zealand have now won their last 21 series matches – 30 in all competitions – after topping Pool B and will face Ireland, the best ranked third-placed team, in the Cup quarter-finals.
The remaining quarter-final is an all-European affair between Pool B runners-up England and Pool C runners-up France.
There was heartbreak for Spain as they missed out on a quarter-final spot by just two points, their 46-0 win over series debutants Mexico not quite enough to overtake USA in the race for the second-best third-placed team spot. The two sides will meet again in the Challenge Trophy semi-final with new core team China facing Fiji in the other.
New Zealand claimed a fourth successive title on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series – and sixth in total – after beating the Women's Sevens Eagles in the HSBC USA Women's Sevens final in Glendale, Colorado, on Sunday.
The Black Ferns Sevens have now won 33 consecutive matches, including the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens, after another dominant weekend in the opening round of the 2019 series at Infinity Park.
USA were bidding to win a first series title in their fifth Cup final and opened the scoring through captain Nicole Heavirland, but New Zealand's response was swift with Portia Woodman leaving Naya Tapper in her wake to run tie the scores at 7-7.
Woodman ran in a second try in the sixth minute, having too much pace for Cheta Emba to catch her, although the American was close enough to force the Black Ferns Sevens star to dot down out wide, not that it made a difference with Tyla Nathan-Wong landing the conversion.
A quick burst of speed then put captain Sarah Goss through a gap to give New Zealand a 21-7 lead at half-time. That advantage grew when Ruby Tui, who was later named HSBC Player of the Final, straightened an attack and offloaded to Niall Williams. She was initially brought down short of the line by Alev Kelter, but quickly released the ball and dived over the line.
It was left to Woodman to put the icing on the victory by completing her hat-trick, taking her tally for the tournament to 10 and bringing her to 195 tries in series history.
Canada had the measure of France for the second time in Glendale, following up their 24-10 Pool C decider victory on Saturday with an emphatic 28-0 triumph to claim the bronze medal. Bianca Farella ran in the opening try from distance and then added a second in similar fashion, running onto an inside pass from Sara Kaljuvee to score when Canada were a player down with captain Ghislaine Landry in the sin-bin. Charity Williams left the French defence in her wake for Canada's third try before Kaili Lukan completed the scoring.
AUSTRALIA FINISH FIFTH
Series champions Australia salvaged fifth place, but only after Samantha Treherne kicked the match-winning conversion with the final act following Green's powerful run-in. Australia had raced into a 14-0 lead with tries by Demi Hayes and Sykes, but Ireland regrouped and first Aoife Doyle and then Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird crossed to cut the deficit to two points at half-time. Nic A Bhaird then made a powerful break with Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe in support to give Ireland a 19-14 lead, but Australia had one final say through Green and Treherne.
SPAIN WIN CHALLENGE TROPHY
Four tries from the Erbina sisters – a hat-trick from the older Amaia and one from 17-year-old Erbina in her first series tournament – saw Spain run out 20-14 winners over Fiji in the Challenge Trophy final to claim the first silverware of the season. China also finished on a winning note, beating series debutants Mexico 47-0 with Hu Yu scoring two of their seven tries in the 11th place play-off.
The series continues in Dubai on 29-30 November where Australia are the defending champions.