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)
Clermont-Ferrand | Results Day 1
Clermont-Ferrand | Fixtures Day 2
Pictures, Video & Text: World Rugby
The Black Ferns Sevens also claimed the HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens trophy after beating rivals Australia 22-7 on Sunday evening.
Earlier in the day, the Kiwis beat hosts France in the semi-finals meaning they could not be caught by the nearest challengers, Australia and Canada, at the top of the standings.
The Kiwis have only been beaten once this season, when USA got the better of them in Sydney in February. It's the fourth title for New Zealand since the series began in 2012, with Australia the only other team to collect a series trophy at the same venue last year.
It means Allan Bunting’s side top the overall series standings with Australia finishing second and Canada going home with the series bronze.
Speaking afterwards, New Zealand captain Tyla Nathan-Wong said: "Wow, it's an amazing feeling. It just goes to show how much heart and mana these girls have, not only here but back at home - all the girls who have pushed each other and the management that worked really hard this season.
"Finishing so close to that gold last year at the Olympics, this season we really stepped it up and brought it to them. It shows - five from six and now we're world series champions."
Michaela Blyde finished as the season’s top try scorer with 40 tries while she also finished top of the DHL Impact Player Tracker, ahead of Russia's Alena Mikhaltsova. Meanwhile, Canada finished third after beating hosts France 36-7 and Spain won the last Challenge Trophy of the season, after they beat Japan, 15-14.
New Zealand were sharp as ever going into the final and Australia had barely touched the ball before dream teamer Ruby Tui scored in the corner. That forced Australia to get creative and it wasn’t long before the experienced Sharni Williams finished off a classy team try to level, but a Niall Williams score for the Black Ferns Sevens made it 12-7 at the break.
The second half saw the Kiwis impose their dominance and the game ebbed away from the Olympic champions, as Blyde and Shakira Baker touched down under the summer sun in the Auvergne to give the win to New Zealand, 22-7.
Canada were in top form all weekend but Australia had an edge to them over the two days and Evania Pelite put John Tait’s team on the back foot early in the first semi-final. However, Canada fought back and scores from dream teamer Ghislaine Landry and the formidable Brittany Benn put them ahead at the break.
Tim Walsh was direct with his charges at half-time and it resulted in a brace of tries from Chloe Dalton, who also forced her way onto the tournament dream team, where it remained 19-14 until the final whistle, with the Australians closer to their goal of winning a first tournament title this season.
By taking the field against France, New Zealand mathematically took the title; their presence in the last four meant that they couldn’t be caught by either Canada or Australia. The Kiwis remained their usual, focused selves and were rewarded in the first half as Michaela Blyde touched down after a beautiful kick pass from Ruby Tui.
France never looked like threatening the newly crowned champions and, despite strong performances from try scorer Chloe Pelle and Shannon Izar, scores from Katarina Whata-Simpkins and Tui ensured a 21-7 victory and another Trans-Tasman showdown in the final.
Ireland showed signs of improvement after each match on day one and their defence was solid during the first five minutes of the first quarter-final. However keeping great players quiet takes resolve and it was only a matter of time before Canada’s captain Ghislaine Landry opened the scoring after spotting the gap in the defence. That put Canada on the front foot and Bianca Farella’s effort left them 12-0 up at half time. It was Farella’s footwork that set up Landry for her 100th series try and Farella’s second shortly afterwards, coupled with one for Kaili Lukan, put Canada out of sight,
Naya Tapper is one of finds of the season and the former sprinter got the scoring underway in USA's quarter-final against last season’s series winners, Australia. It was two of their star players, however, that got the game back in favour of the Australians, as Caslick made a typical scintillating break before two tries by Emillee Cherry made it 19-7 at half-time. Superb work by Ryan Carlyle made it 19-12 in the second half but Evania Pelite’s converted try in the corner helped to finish it out, 31-14 the final score.
Another warm reception welcomed France to their field as they ran out alongside Russia. The Russians started strongly in what was to be a tight and tense affair and it was on the stroke of half time when Daria Bobkova broke down the left flank to score under the posts and lead at half-time. The home support ramped up after the break and cheered every second as Chloe Pelle scored one of the tries of the weekend, bulldozing over in the corner after top teamwork in the buildup. The conversion was ruled out by the referee, despite the in-goal official raising her flag, but that only spurred the home side on and Jade le Pesq scored with one minute to go. France worked hard to keep Russia in their own half over the remaining 60 seconds and it finished 10-7 to the hosts, much to the delight of the partisan supporters in Stade Gabriel Montpied.
Based on Saturday’s performances, Fijiana were lucky to make the Cup quarters and New Zealand were in no mood to make things easy for them in their last eight match-up. Young gun Alena Saili scored twice and tries from Katarina Whata-Simpkins, Blyde and Crystal Mayes ensured an easy passage to their semis, with a 31-5 win.
This weekend’s results also mean that Brazil finished bottom of the core teams and therefore will not feature on the series next season. Japan, who won the series qualifier in Hong Kong in April, will be the eleventh team next year.
Squads have been declared for the final round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Clermont-Ferrand this weekend.
New Zealand are hoping to seal their fourth series title in France, as they sit on top of the standings going into the sixth round. The only other teams who can claim top prize are Canada and Australia, who are both tied for second place on 82 points, 14 behind the leaders.
Hosts France are without inspirational captain Fanny Horta in Clermont-Ferrand, while Irish captain Lucy Mulhall (pictured above) is also ruled out due to injury.
Canada have one debutant this weekend, while England have brought six players who will make their first sevens series starts at the Stade Gabriel Montpied.
England captain Katie Mason said: “This weekend for us is about bringing in new and exciting talent and giving them a chance to play on the series. We were in Brive last week so we’ve prepared well and acclimatised to the warm weather here, so we’re looking forward to just getting out there.
It’s been a tough season for England, who are one of the teams battling to secure a spot at next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.
"It's been up and down. We started well in Dubai, not so good in Sydney and Vegas, but we pushed on from there and I think we've learned massive lessons this year. It's been a great time for us to build as a team and we can look forward to next year where there are Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens."
The action gets underway on Saturday from the Stade Gabriel Montpied in Clermont. Click here to find out where you can watch all the action.
Clermont-Ferrand | Fixtures
HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series | Standings
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