An eventful season that began with a bronze medal at the Dubai Sevens last December has finished on a high for Russia with the Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Sevens Series title retained for a third consecutive year.
Having been beaten by France in the final of the opening tournament of the series in Marcoussis in June, the 2016 and 2017 champions turned the tables on their main rivals in Kazan this weekend, winning the gold medal match 34-5.
Both teams finished level on 38 points with one tournament title and a silver medal apiece, and it was only Russia's superior points difference that separated the two dominant teams on the circuit.
Russia’s victory, which followed their eighth-place finish at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco in July, was underpinned by another stellar performance from inspirational captain Alena Mikhaltsova, winner of two DHL Impact Player awards on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2018.
Mikhaltsova scored the first and last of Russia’s six tries in the final as France were overpowered to take her tally for the tournament in Kazan to 11. Daria Shestakova also bagged a double in a win that would have been even more convincing had four conversion attempts not gone astray.
France became only the second team after Wales to breach the Russia line over the weekend after scoring right at the death but that was scant consolation for the David Courteix-coached outfit.
While France and Russia marched into the knockout stages as comfortable winners of Pools A and B, the battle for top spot in Pool C was a much more competitive affair with Poland and Ireland winning two games to finish level on seven points apiece. Poland suffered a surprise loss to Italy in their final match but an earlier win over the Irish proved crucial in the final shake-up.
Disappointingly for Poland, they fell just short of a rare podium finish after Scotland, runners-up to Russia in Pool B, beat them 19-12 in the bronze medal match to end their first season on the Grand Prix Series in impressive fashion.
Russia brushed aside Italy (37-0) and Poland (39-0) in the knockout stages, while France saw off Spain 31-0 before edging out Scotland, 24-22 in the semi-finals.
While disappointed to lose 17-15 to Scotland in the quarter-finals in Kazan, Ireland’s fifth place was enough for them to finish third in the overall series table at the expense of their Celtic rivals.