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Tokyo Olympics women’s rugby sevens day one recap: Contenders remain unbeaten
We recap all the action from Tokyo Stadium as the women’s Olympic sevens tournament got under way on Thursday.
Four teams remain unbeaten at the end of day one of the women’s Olympic sevens tournament following two pulsating sessions at Tokyo Stadium.
Rio 2016 gold medallists Australia, France, the USA and New Zealand all got off to a perfect start at Tokyo 2020, winning consecutive matches on the opening day.
Defending champions Australia beat Japan and China in Pool C, while New Zealand, who won silver five years ago, beat Kenya and overturned a 21-point deficit to secure victory against Great Britain.
Got your breath back yet? 😅— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) July 29, 2021
🇳🇿 @BlackFerns edge out @GBRugbySevens in an instant classic! #HowWeSevens | #Rugby | #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/CUownrH4yQ
France and the USA also won both their matches on Thursday but Rio 2016 bronze medallists Canada slipped to defeat against an impressive Fiji side in the second session at Tokyo Stadium.
France unbeaten, Fiji beat Canada
Fanny Horta became the first woman to receive a yellow card in Tokyo as she was sent to the sin-bin just over two minutes into the opening match between France and Fiji.
Viniana Riwai took immediate advantage to give the Fijiana a 5-0 lead, but France hit back before half-time, and it was captain Horta who crossed to help edge her side back in front.
French speedster Séraphine Okemba took a lovely offload from Camille Grassineau early in the second period to put France 12-5 in front, and despite the best efforts of Alowesi Nakoci that is how the score would remain at full-time.
Les Bleues head into day two unbeaten after they followed up their opening win with a comfortable 40-5 defeat of Brazil in the second session.
Anne-Cécile Ciofani scored a first-half brace, before Lina Guerin added two tries of her own — either side of Brazil’s first try of Tokyo 2020 from Bianca Silva.
Jade Ulutule added a fifth try for France before Chloe Jacquet rounded off the scoring after Silva had been shown her second yellow card of the tournament.
In the second match in Pool B, Canada opened their Tokyo 2020 campaign with an impressive 33-0 defeat of Brazil.
The South Americans were reduced to six players in the first half when Silva was sent to the sin bin, but kept the game scoreless until late in the first half.
Charity Williams crossed for her second Olympic try, and first of Tokyo 2020, in the sixth minute, and after the half-time break the Canadians cut loose as Keyara Wardley (twice), Karen Paquin and Ghislaine Landry each crossed the whitewash.
Canada’s hopes of repeating their bronze medal performance at Rio 2016 took a hit in the second session on Thursday when they lost 26-12 to an inspired Fijiana side.
Wow... that escalated quickly ⚡️— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) July 29, 2021
Reapi Ulunisau scores the opening try against Canada in just 14 seconds, the fastest try of #Tokyo2020 so far ⏰#HowWeSevens | #Rugby pic.twitter.com/IqfTB14Avq
Reapi Ulunisau ran in the fastest try of Tokyo 2020, after just 14 seconds, and Fiji kept up the pressure for the rest of the first half, crossing through Ana Maria Naimasi and Riwai.
Ulunisau scored Fiji’s fourth try within a minute of the restart. Canada hit back with late tries from Landry and Kayla Moleschi, but a disappointing match was compounded by the loss of Wardley and Williams to injury.
Australia, USA off to winning start
Emma Tonegato scored the first hat-trick of the women’s tournament at Tokyo Stadium as defending champions Australia began their Pool C campaign with a 48-0 win against Japan.
Charlotte Caslick opened the scoring within 60 seconds before her fellow Rio 2016 gold medallist Tonegato scored twice and provided an assist for Demi Hayes as Australia built a 24-0 half-time lead.
Hayes scored her second try of the match shortly after the break, and Tonegato then grabbed her third — and 10th in the Olympics — while Maddison Levi displayed good pace to grab a late brace.
China became only the second team to score the first try of an Olympic match against Australia when the teams met in Thursday’s second session.
Yang Feifei it was who touched down in the left corner, but Australia responded with two tries of their own before half-time, as Sharni Williams and Caslick both scored.
Faith Nathan and Madison Ashby crossed early in the second half to make sure of an Australian victory, but it was China who had the final say as Tang Minglin made the final score 26-10.
Earlier, Kristi Kirshe provided a match-winning impact from the bench in the opening match of Pool C as the USA came from behind to see off China 28-14.
Wang Wanyu scored the first try of the match, following a stunning break from Feifei, in the third minute but the USA were level within 120 seconds as Kris Thomas raced over.
Kirshe entered the fray in the second period and two tries in as many minutes turned the tide in the USA’s favour, before Kayla Canett added a fourth for the Americans. There was still time for Chen Keyi to cross for China, but it was little more than consolation.
The USA made sure of their place in the medal quarter-finals on day three as they won their second match on Thursday 17-7 against Japan.
You heard, @ilona_maher.— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 29, 2021
BRING IT, @TeamUSA. #Olympics #Rugby pic.twitter.com/k2TnpEq4wM
Ilona Maher scored the opening try of the match in the second minute and the USA appeared to be cantering towards victory as Jordan Matyas and Ariana Ramsey crossed to give their side a 17-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
But, the hosts refused to let their intensity drop and got a reward for a committed display when Mifuyu Koide, one of two surviving members of their Rio 2016 squad, raced over the goal line.
New Zealand edge Great Britain, ROC rebound
Great Britain had co-captain Abbie Brown to thank as they twice came from behind to win an enthralling Pool A opener against the Russian Olympic Committee team (ROC) 14-12.
ROC pressured their opponents from the kick-off and Baizat Khamidova profited to put her side 5-0 in front inside the first minute. Great Britain, though, led at half-time after Brown scored her first try.
Kristina Seredina appeared to have won the match for ROC when she raced through a gap in the British defence, but with time running out Brown found some room to cross for a second time and win the match for Great Britain.
In the final match of the first session, New Zealand began their quest for a first Olympic sevens gold medal with a 29-7 win against Kenya.
Stacey Fluhler opened the scoring with less than a minute on the clock, before Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman crossed the whitewash to give the Black Ferns Sevens a 17-0 lead.
Kenya cut the deficit amid wild celebrations as Christabel Lindo touched down under the posts on the stroke of half-time.
But, New Zealand made sure of victory in the second period as Gayle Broughton set Blyde up for a second score before notching a try of her own.
Blyde was the match-winner again in New Zealand’s second match of day one as the Black Ferns Sevens recovered from going 21-0 down to beat Great Britain 26-21.
Great Britain raced into a three-score lead in the first half as Helena Rowland, Megan Jones and Jasmine Joyce crossed the whitewash in the opening five minutes.
However, the New Zealand comeback started before half-time as Blyde scored twice, before Tyla Nathan-Wong scored a sensational solo try midway through the second half.
Great Britain led until the final minute, but Blyde found space again to score for a third time and secure a mammoth comeback win.
In the final match of day one the ROC held off a spirited comeback from Kenya to record their first ever Olympic sevens victory, beating the Lionesses 35-12.
Nadezhda Sozonova and Kristina Seredina put the ROC in control midway through the first half, but a stunning brace from Janet Okelo ensured Kenya went into the break only 14-12 behind.
That was as close as the Kenyans got, however, as Daria Shestakova, Alena Tiron and Marina Kukina all touched down in the second half.