World series champions Australia were one of five teams to book their places in the quarter-finals with a match to spare after the opening day of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games women’s sevens competition at the Deodoro Stadium on Saturday.
New Zealand, France, Canada and Great Britain will also be in the hunt for medals after going through the opening day unbeaten as well with Fiji and USA the only other sides to record a win on this historic day for rugby sevens.
The ability to retain restart after restart was evident from top three seeds Australia, New Zealand and Canada in particular, who were all able to quickly build cushions to put them in total control of their matches from the outset.
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Australia were in scintillating form on day one, showing their determination to add the first Olympic gold medal to their maiden series crown in 2016 with a nine-try, 53-0 defeat of Colombia first up with Charlotte Caslick (main picture) starring with a hat-trick of tries.
They were tested more by Fiji in their second match, but still ran out comfortable 36-0 winners with Caslick again on the scoreboard to finish the day as joint top try-scorer and Emma Tonegato crossing for two tries.
Despite the defeat, Fiji are still very much in the mix for the quarter-finals after they beat USA, seeded one place higher than them in sixth, 12-7 in their first match thanks to tries from Luisa Tisolo and Viniana Riwai.
The Women’s Sevens Eagles bounced back from that setback with a much-improved display against Colombia, Kathryn Johnson and Alev Kelter crossing for two tries apiece in a 48-0 victory which sees them end day one second in Pool A on point difference from Fiji.
New Zealand may not have won a round on the world series in 2015-16 with their primary focus always on Rio but it paid off with two impressive displays on day one to beat Kenya 52-0 and Spain 31-5 to set up the Pool B decider with France on Sunday.
Portia Woodman and Kayla McAlister reunited to rip opposition defences to shreds with their fancy footwork and pace, scoring eight of New Zealand’s 14 tries. Woodman also crossed for the first Olympic sevens hat-trick against Kenya with birthday girl McAlister helping herself to two braces.
They were made to work harder by Spain, who were looking to bounce back from a 24-7 defeat to France in the first ever Olympic sevens match. Camille Grassineau had the honour of scoring the first try before further scores from Lina Guerin, Caroline Ladagnous and Elodie Guiglion wrapped up the win.
France then came out against Kenya and, with Jade le Pesq catching the eye, ran in five tries in a 41-7 victory including a double for captain Fanny Horta. The biggest cheer, though, was reserved for Celestine Masinde when she scored Kenya’s first Olympic try in the first half.
Canada lived up to their billing as third seeds with two clinical displays, their ability to retain possession from the restart and score quick tries making it hard for Japan and hosts Brazil to live with them.
Bianca Farella and Ghislaine Landry crossed for two tries apiece in Canada’s opening 45-0 win over Japan and the former was at the double again along with Karen Paquin as they made it two from two with a 38-0 defeat of Brazil.
Great Britain, while also unbeaten, were very nervous in their opening match against Brazil and it was the hosts who enjoyed the best of possession and territory but were unable to turn it into points despite the efforts of Edna Santini and Paula Ishibashi.
Five tries, including two from Natasha Hunt, saw Team GB run out 29-3 winners in the end and Team GB returned in the afternoon session to produce a much better performance against a gutsy Japanese outfit, Heather Fisher and Amy Wilson-Hardy among the try-scorers in a 40-0 win.
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The action continues on Sunday at 11:00 local time (BST -4) with the final round of pool matches, including the mouth-watering Canada v Great Britain to determine top spot in Pool C. The top two in each pool, along with two best third-placed sides, will then contest the quarter-finals in the second session, beginning at 16:00 local time.
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