Canada and New Zealand will go into Saturday’s Cup quarter-finals unbeaten after some imposing performances on day one of the HSBC USA Sevens in Las Vegas.
Ghislaine Landry’s Canada were particularly dominant, beating Russia 34-7, Argentina 38-7 and France 21-7, backing up their victorious performance in Sydney and laying down a marker for their rivals in knock-out play on Saturday.
Landry led from the front, running in three tries and nailing six conversions, not bad considering she was rested for the game against Argentina. Her intelligent lines of running and high-intensity at the breakdown set the right example for a confident team that never really looked stretched.
And when Landry converted Kayla Moleschi’s try towards the end of the win over France, she drew level with New Zealand’s Portia Woodman as the all-time leading points-scorer in HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series history with 665.
Among Canada’s rivals, the Black Ferns Sevens looked the most likely on day one to challenge as they came through a tough Pool C unscathed beating Brazil, England and trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the process. For the second series tournament in succession – and, indeed, only the second time in history – England failed to progress from the pool stage and will now play for the Challenge trophy.
New Zealand’s in-form play-maker Woodman scored two tries against the Aussies and is rightly feeling confident ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final against Russia.
She said: “We are quietly confident in our own game plan that we’ve set and today has gone well for us. Beating Australia was important. They are such a good team and we’ve been lucky to take them for a third time now.
“But that’s just day one, day two is a different story and we will go back to base and make sure we recover well ahead of tomorrow. It’s going to be a challenge but we’ll be up for it.”
Despite losing to New Zealand, Australia also looked sharp with Emilee Cherry’s six tries lighting up the Sam Boyd Stadium, one of which scored against Brazil was Australia’s 500th in the history of the series. Cherry’s devastating mixture of power and pace ensured Shannon Parry’s team were too hot for England or the Brazilians to handle. They’ll still feel they are very much in contention on Saturday, starting with a tough assignment against the ever-improving Fijians.
For their part, Fiji had a mixed day, narrowly beating Spain before teaching Ireland a harsh, 31-5 lesson and then losing by one score to home favourites USA. Four tries from Ana Maria Roqica inspired a strong showing from the Pacific island team as their upward improvement curve continues apace.
USA will face Ireland in Saturday’s quarter-finals having given the home crowd plenty to cheer about on day one. Four tries from Alev Kelter and three from Naya Tapper secured wins over Fiji and Spain but a narrow defeat to the Irish will give the girls in green, ably led by Lucy Mulhall, plenty of confidence ahead of the big showdown.