Picture & Text: World Rugby
New Zealand, Australia and Canada unbeaten on day one in Clermont - Black Ferns Sevens still on course to claim fourth series title
The Black Ferns Sevens, along with Canada and Australia, won their three matches at the HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens, meaning they can wrap up the series with a semi-final appearance on Sunday.
Sunday’s quarter-finals will see Canada take on Ireland, Australia plays USA, Russia meet hosts France and New Zealand take on Fiji.
Elsewhere, Australia, Fiji, Russia and France also guaranteed their spots at next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. They join New Zealand, Spain, Canada and the USA who were already qualified for the event in July 2018.
With just one more day of action to play this season, Russia’s Alena Mikhaltsova still leads the DHL tracker ahead of Ireland’s Lucy Mulhall and New Zealand’s Michaella Blyde.
Ireland scored the first try of the day when Stacey Flood crossed against USA. It was all Ireland in the first half, but the Americans got off the mark with a superb Ryan Carlyle try after some excellent work from Naya Tapper and the ever-present Jessica Javelet. Tapper, one of USA's standouts this season with 29 series tries, pounced on some sloppy Irish handling and ran the length of the park to score the winner as it finished, 12-7.
New Zealand looked focused as they ran out against Japan, and when Ruby Tui scored early on, it looked ominous for the Japanese. However, they fought their way back in with a good attack and even better defence and were rewarded with two tries, however Niall Williams and Kiwi captain Tyla Nathan-Wong ensured it would finish 21-10 to the series leaders.
Later on, Japan showed their resolve against USA under the hot sun in the Auvergne, but despite a strong start, five tries from the Americans, including two from Alev Kelter, saw USA run out 33-5 winners. The Japanese, core team on the circuit next year, also made Ireland work hard for their 26-5 win and will be happy with their day one performances, despite not registering a win.
The only time New Zealand lost this year was against the USA in Sydney, and it was a repeat of that clash that finished the Pool A proceedings on Saturday. Nathan-Wong opened the scoring and with the conversion, passed the 500 series points mark. Tapper scored another two for USA to add to her haul, but New Zealand’s dominance saw Gayle Broughton and Katarina Whata-Simpkins cross to ensure a 19-14 win.
England have had a poor season by their high standards and it didn’t look like changing after their opening game at Stade Gabriel Montpied. Looking focused, Russia dissected their opponents on five occasions as they ran out easy winners, 25-0.
Brazil is hoping to avoid relegation out of the series and their cause wasn’t helped when tries from Charity Williams, Natasha Watcham-Roy and Kaili Lukan put Canada in a 17-0 lead before Brazil had time to breath. Further tries in the second period from Bianca Farella and Lukan ensure a 29-0 win for Canada as Brazilian heads dropped.
But the South American's came to life in their second pool game on Saturday, claiming their first ever victory over Russia with a 12-7 shock win. Daria Bobkova scored for the Russians but Brazil, showing the passion that they’ve demonstrated all season, scored through Claudia Teles and Haline Scratut to ensure the famous win.
Canada rarely takes a backwards step these days, and England, with six debutants featuring this weekend, weren’t in a position to challenge John Tait’s side. Seven tries helped put England to the sword, 45-0, their heaviest ever defeat to the Canadians.
England and Brazil battled it out on Saturday evening at the bottom of Pool B and the 31-24 scoreline saw England finish strongly, however with Fiji beating Spain, it was not enough to secure England’s progress into the cup quarter-finals on day two.
Canada and Russia was a tighter affair, with Charity Williams making the difference towards the end, with a well-taken score ensuring they topped the pool with a 24-14 win.
Australia has happy memories of Clermont-Ferrand; it’s where they won their first series title last season before going on to win the gold at the Olympic Games in Rio. They got off to a good start against Spain with a well-taken try from Emilee Cherry who followed it up with another score moments later. Two Cassandra Staples' tries and individual efforts from Evania Pelite, Alicia Quirk and Emma Sykes saw it finish 41-5 to Australia.
France were welcomed to the park with a loud rendition of “Allez les Blues” and the local support roared them on as Jade le Pesq got the scoring underway with a well taken try against Fiji. A sin-binning didn’t help Fijiana’s cause, as they conceded another with Shannon Izar going over in the corner. Sloppy play from the French on their own line allowed Fiji to get off the mark on the stroke of half-time with Lavenia Tinai crossing unopposed. The second half saw France regain the momentum and tries from Pauline Biscarat and Carla Neissen ensured a 31-14 victory for the home side.
Australia increased the misery for Fijiana later in the day, scoring five tries to ease to a 35-5 win. France was made to work hard against Spain in the following match, with Chloe Pelle’s two tries needed to ensure the win with Amaia Erbina touching down for the Spanish; 12-7 the final score.
Fiji’s 45-7 demolition of Spain meant that Spain was consigned to the Challenge Trophy on day two, while Fiji scraped into the quarter-finals on Sunday where they'll meet New Zealand.
Australia played the hosts in the last game of the day and Montserrat Amedee put smiles on the French faces as her two tries were matched by Sharni Williams and Emilee Cherry in the first half of the pool decider. Alicia Quirk touched down for Australia and despite a late consolation, Australia topped the pool with a 20-17 win.
The action resumes on Sunday at the Stade Gabriel Montpied on day two when Canada play Ireland at midday (BST +1)