Text, Picture and Video: World Rugby
It may have been the lowest scoring final in HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series history, but Canada's 7-5 victory over England in the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens final was a nail-biting encounter that was only settled with the final kick of the game at Mikuni World Stadium on Sunday.
England looked on course to claim their first Cup title since April 2016 as the clock turned to red with them leading 5-0 after Amy Wilson Hardy's try late in the first half, but Canada dug deep and worked their way from one end of the field to the other before captain Ghislaine Landry found a gap in the defence to run round behind the posts to give herself a straightforward conversion to win the match.
Landry, playing in her 30th series tournament, made no mistake with the conversion to break English hearts and secure a first title for Canada since February 2017 to ensure they leave Japanese shores far happier than 12 months ago when they posted their worst ever finish of 11th.
Canada's victory has moved them up to second place in the series standings with 66 points, now only six behind New Zealand who finished fifth in Kitakyushu. Bronze medallists USA have slipped to third as a result on 64 points with defending series champions Australia fourth with 56 and France fifth on 46.
With the top four teams in the series to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the significance of this success was not lost on HSBC Player of the Final Landry with Canada now sitting 20 points clear of France with only two rounds remaining on home soil in Langford and in Biarritz, France.
USA SECURE BRONZE
France could not have asked for a better start in the battle for the bronze medal after tries for Carla Neisen and Anne-Cécile Ciofani – her ninth of the weekend – gave the 2018 runners-up a 12-0 advantage with just over three minutes gone. However, USA fought back to tie the scores at half-time with tries by Ilona Maher and co-captain Lauren Doyle. The second half was all about the USA with France having little possession to work with, Naya Tapper scoring tries either side a Kristi Kirshe effort to put the match beyond doubt before Doyle grabbed a second of her own.
NEW ZEALAND FINISH FIFTH
New Zealand produced a scintillating first-half display of attacking rugby in the fifth place play-off with captain Hirini scoring two of their five tries for a 29-0 lead against Australia, although it was teenager Faleafaga's one-handed grounding that was the pick of the bunch. When Nathan-Wong scored it looked bleak for Australia, but instead the match turned on its head as Mahalia Murphy, Ellia Green, Sykes and Charlotte Caslick – later named DHL Impact Player for the tournament – crossed to make the final score 34-26. It may have come in defeat, but Green's try was her 100th in series history and the 200th of the weekend. Ireland had gone into the seventh place play-off without their injured captain Lucy Mulhall, but two tries from Eve Higgins helped them beat Russia 15-14 in a match that flowed one way and then the other.
FIJI WIN CHALLENGE TROPHY
The battle to avoid relegation from the series got a little bit tighter as well after Fiji ran out 41-21 winners over Spain in the Challenge Trophy final thanks to a hat-trick from Asinate Savu and double from Raijieli Daveua. Fiji's win means that only six points separate the three teams in danger with Spain ninth on 16 points, three clear of their conquerors with China on 10. China finished their first tournament under new head coach Sean Horan with a hard-fought 7-0 win over hosts Japan in the 11th place play-off, Guy Yaoyao receiving quick ball from a lineout and darting through a gap to run in the only try of the match.
The HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 now moves onto Langford in Victoria, Canada, for the penultimate round on 11-12 May.