New Zealand lift women’s series trophy in Clermont
CLERMONT, France-June 26: 3:34pm(World Rugby): New Zealand are the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series champions.
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.
Dates for next season’s HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series will be announced in due course.
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