England were the surprise package on day one of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday, beating defending series and Dubai champions Australia and Glendale runners-up USA to finish top of a pool for the first time since the final round of the 2015-16 series.
Their reward is a rematch with Australia in the Cup quarter-finals after the Olympic champions lost 22-17 to USA in their final Pool B thanks to a last-gasp try by Cheta Emba.
New Zealand, the winners of the opening round in Glendale last month, and Canada were the other sides to go unbeaten on day one at The Sevens Stadium to top Pool A and C respectively.
The Black Ferns Sevens will face Russia in the first quarter-final at 09:00 local time (GMT+4) on Friday after they secured the remaining place with a hard-fought 19-0 win over invitational side Kenya in their final Pool C match. New Zealand won their day one encounter 29-12.
Canada, like their North American rivals, also needed a last-gasp try to win their last pool match, Charity Williams bursting through the defence with 30 seconds to go to break the deadlock and secure a 21-14 win against France, the side they faced in the bronze final in round one.
In the Challenge Trophy, Fiji will face China in the first semi-final before Kenya tackle Spain in the other.
New Zealand extended their winning run on the series to 27 matches – and 36 in global competitions – with victories over invitational side Kenya, Russia and Ireland. Captain Sarah Goss scored her 50th try in the 34-7 win over Kenya, who had something to celebrate after Grace Adhiambo Okulu scored against the series leaders.
A Goss brace helped the Black Ferns Sevens overcome Russia 29-12 before they battled past a determined Ireland side 24-17, newly-crowned World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year 2018 Michaela Blyde grabbed a double to move to 99 series tries.
Ireland had early come out of the blocks in impressive fashion, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe scoring twice in their opening 26-0 defeat of Russia. The Russians needed to overcome a stubborn Kenya side 19-0 to pip Fiji to the final spot in the Cup quarter-finals as the second-best third-placed team.
England sprung the first surprise of the day against defending champions Australia thanks to tries from captain Abbie Brown, Emma Uren, Ellie Kildunne and Natasha Hunt. They proved that 26-12 win was no-one off by following it with a last-gasp 14-12 victory over USA, Natasha Hunt kicking the match-winning conversion with the last act of the match after Amy Wilson Hardy had burst through the Women's Eagles Sevens defence to tie the scores. They then ensured top spot in a pool for the first time since Clermont-Ferrand in the 2015-16 series final round with a 38-0 defeat of China.
Australia bounced back from their opening defeat to beat China 33-5 with Dom du Toit scoring a brace and went into their final pool match with USA knowing that they were assured of a place in the Cup quarter-finals whatever the outcome. An Ilona Maher double gave USA a 17-5 lead, but Australia hauled themselves level with a runaway try from Ellia Green and one from debutant Lily Dick. However, Evania Pelite was held up and Cheta Emba stripped the ball before racing away to score the winning try.
Canada and France had signalled their intentions to reach a first Cup final in Dubai with comfortable victories over Fiji and Spain to set up the expected pool decider. Julia Greenshields scored a hat-trick in Canada's opening 38-7 defeat of Fiji, before Bianca Farella also crossed three times in the 29-7 win over Spain. Les Bleues, meanwhile, scored 29 points against both opponents, Marjorie Mayans scoring the first of their five tries by different players in a 29-0 defeat of Spain before Camille Grassineau grabbed a brace in a closer 29-15 victory over Fiji.
Fiji picked up their first win, Asinate Savu setting them on the way to a 17-5 win against Spain that wasn't enough for a quarter-final place. There was then little to separate Canada and France, Brittany Benn and Kaili Lukan seeing their tries cancelled out by a double for Chloe Pelle to leave the scores tied at 14-14 going into the final minute of a physical encounter. A draw would have been enough for Canada to top the pool, but with Anne Cecile Ciofani in the sin-bin they snatched victory when Charity Williams burst through the defence for a try converted by captain Ghislaine Landry.