Great Britain pulled off a huge shock in the final game of the opening day of the women’s competition at HSBC SVNS Perth with a thrilling 19-12 victory against series leaders Australia.
It was Great Britain’s first win against Australia in SVNS history and Australia’s first defeat of the season after their title wins in Dubai and Cape Town.
Great Britain top Pool A with a game against winless South Africa to come on day two, Fiji and France lead the way in Pool B after winning both their opening games, and three-time champions New Zealand kicked off their defence with an unblemished record.
All eight quarter-final places have been decided with Great Britain, Fiji, France and New Zealand joined by Australia, Canada, Ireland and USA in remaining in contention for the title.
Pool A: Great Britain are Australia Day party-poopers
Great Britain scraped past Canada 14-12 in their first hit-out, thanks to Ellie Boatman’s late try, before pulling off the shock of the season against Australia to make it two wins from two.
It was a dream return for Abi Burton after her long absence from the circuit due to a brain-related illness with Great Britain punishing Teagan Levi’s red card.
“We’ve been building all season, we’ve had ups and downs, but we knew we could put together a game like that, and what a day to do it – against Australia on Australia Day, on their home turf. You cannot ask for any better really,” said Burton, who revealed she nearly quit the sport because of her off-field challenges.
“I didn’t think I would be able to get back at some points last season, my mind was there, my head was there, which is actually quite funny considering I had a brain injury, but my body just wasn’t, and I was like, ‘am I just going to have to call it a day?’. But sticking with it, and having an amazing team, and amazing group of people around me, my mum, my dad – Burtons never give in, that’s what we stand by – it means the absolute world to me to play in this Great Britain shirt.”
The scores were tied at 7-7 at the point Levi was dismissed, two minutes before half-time, for making head-on-head contact in the tackle, but despite being a player down, Australia struck next through Bienne Terita.
Terita then pulled off a brilliant try-saving tackle on Heather Cowell but tries from Emma Uren and Jasmine Joyce – with her first touch of the ball – ensured it was Great Britain who got the win.
Terita scored with just 25 seconds on the clock in Australia’s first game, a 31-0 win against South Africa, and added another as the hosts ran in five tries in total.
South Africa suffered a second defeat in their next game against Canada, going down 26-7.
Pool B: Fiji and France set for big showdown
All eyes will be on Fiji’s encounter with France on Saturday (10:22 GMT) after both teams got the job done with two wins out of two on day one.
Fiji had the honour of playing in the first SVNS match in Perth and they raced into a 33-0 half-time lead against Brazil before the South Americans restored some pride in the second half, scoring three tries in a 40-15 defeat.
It was a similar story in France’s first game with Les Bleues Sevens scoring three converted tries for a 21-0 lead inside the first five minutes before an even second half brought a final scoreline of 26-5.
Fiji were nowhere near their best in their second match against Spain but still came away with a 31-0 victory. Reapi Ulunisau was the standout performer with a brace.
Spain, meanwhile, haven’t won a pool match since Cape Town last year and that run at this stage of the competition now stands at 23 matches.
France looked to be coasting in their second match against Brazil, after going 12-0 up early on, but a brilliant 65-metre finish from pocket rocket, Thalita Da Silva Costa, reminded them they were in a game.
Les Bleues Sevens slammed the door shut on any hopes Brazil had of a win, though, with second-half tries from Anne-Cécile Ciofani and Yolaine Yengo giving them enough breathing space before Marie Dupouy secured a 31-14 win after Costa’s second.
While Brazil lost both of their matches, Friday was not all about the numbers on the scoreboard. Perth was Raquel Kochhann’s first SVNS appearance since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022 and the 31-year-old was delighted to be back.
“When the doctors released me I’ve been working harder and harder to be part of this team again,” said the double Olympian who performed well on her return.
“To be selected for today, stepping out on the field, it is hard to explain the feelings. I am tired but so happy to be here again.”
Pool C: Perth-fect from defending champions
New Zealand’s three previous SVNS title wins in Australia all came in Sydney but the change of location has not thrown them off their stride, with wins against Japan (29-5) and Ireland (21-14)) setting them up nicely for a fourth consecutive title.
Against Ireland, Stacey Waaka cancelled out Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe’s try, her ninth of the season, before tries either side of half-time from Jorja Miller put the defending champions in a commanding position. Aoibheann Reilly’s late score earned Ireland a losing bonus point.
While a first SVNS win against New Zealand still eludes them, Ireland are in a good position going into day two after winning their first game against USA, 19-14.
Alev Kelter became USA’s most capped player in SVNS history in that game, surpassing Lauren Doyle in her 42nd tournament, but it was Kristi Kirshe who was the headline act for the USA on Friday with five tries across their first two matches.
A try in the defeat to Ireland was followed by a first-half hat-trick, and a fourth after the break, as USA bounced back with a 33-5 win against winless Japan.