- Jaz Gray stars as USA continue Malaga form
- Les Bleues Sevens yet to concede after two big wins
- Russia, Ireland and Australia are also unbeaten
- Isabel Ozório scores Portugal’s first women’s series try
- Blitzboks watch on as main title rivals prosper
- Spain men so close to upset; Carlin Isles breaks their hearts
Estadio Olímpico de la Cartuja welcomed the HSBC World Sevens Series to Seville for the first time and the action on show did not disappoint.
Kicking off in brilliant sunshine, the fourth tournament of the 2022 Series supplied plenty of moments to remember and some thrilling finishes.
USA, the women’s winners in Malaga last weekend, couldn’t have done any more in their attempts to go back-to-back with wins over world series debutants Portugal and England.
Russia, Ireland, France and Australia are the other unbeaten sides heading into Saturday’s play.
“The win means a lot to us, we really had to grind for it and it just shows that we can work really hard and have each other’s backs when things aren’t going perfectly,” said USA women’s captain Lauren Doyle, a try-scorer in the 24-10 win over England that sets Emilie Bydwell’s side up nicely for day two.
In the men’s competition, South Africa had to sit and watch as main HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series rivals Argentina, Australia, USA and France all kicked off with wins, some more comfortable than others with USA needing 90 seconds of overtime to break Spanish hearts.
GRAY MATTER TELLS AS USA IMPRESS
Jaz Gray’s burgeoning reputation continued in Seville with a hat-trick in a 52-0 win against women’s series debutants Portugal followed by another try against England.
That encounter always promised to be one of the games of the day and it lived up to that billing, certainly in a fast-paced first half, where the lead went back and forth.
Ultimately, though, USA’s extra power in the contact was the telling factor, three of their four tries coming about when England fell off tackles. Naya Tapper stepped out of two to score her 99th women’s series try, Lauren Doyle ghosted through a gap for their second and Gray once again showed her class with the USA’s third. Kris Thomas powered through more flailing arms to put USA in command, this after England had stayed in the fight in the first half thanks to scores from the pacy Grace Crompton and Isla Norman-Bell.
Super-stepper Megan Jones was one of England’s shining lights on day one, scoring the fifth try in a 33-12 win over Canada as well as kicking four conversions. Canada responded to that defeat by seeing off Portugal 45-7. The Canadians ran in six tries but perhaps the most significant of the match went to the Europeans, Isabel Ozório reaching out to score one-handed and provide the Portuguese women with their first-ever try on the world series.
CROWE’S FEET DELIVER FOR IRELAND
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe was once again Ireland’s main attacking weapon as they recorded wins against Poland and Brazil.
Poland showed superb continuity in their attacking play and looked on course for a memorable win in the first game of the day until Murphy Crowe popped up with her second try from a scrum play when the clock was in the red.
Inevitably, Murphy Crowe was on the scoresheet again in their second game against Brazil, which ended in a 29-12 win and qualification for Saturday’s knockout stages. Stacey Flood, Beibhinn Parsons, Eve Higgins and Lucy Mulhall also crossed the whitewash. For Brazil, tries for Raquel Kochhann and Bianca Silva are proof that their attacking game is beginning to improve.
Reigning European champions Russia joined Ireland in the Cup quarter-finals after a routine 26-7 win against Brazil was followed by a 29-5 victory against Poland. The scoreline virtually mirrored that from the Malaga quarter-finals when Russia won by three points fewer en route to the silver medal. Viktoriia Em, Kristina Seredina, Alena Tiron and Daria Shestakova all finished the day on two tries apiece.
FRANCE AND AUSTRALIA IN CONTROL
Olympic silver medallists France easily got the better of tournament hosts, Spain, winning 43-0. Joanna Grisez scored a hat-trick and World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, Anne-Cécile Ciofani, crossed twice as Les Bleues Sevens recorded their highest score in 32 World Series matches against their European neighbours. France also made short work of Belgium, scoring seven tries as well as keeping another clean sheet.
Australia also kept Belgium to nil but were more severely challenged by Spain in their final game on day one before pulling clear and recording a 26-7 win. “Spain gave it to us, and it is good that they gave it to us because we needed that,” said Australia's Faith Nathan.
SPANISH HEARTS BROKEN IN MEN’S TOURNAMENT
The opening men's game in Pool A was a classic as hosts Spain refused to bow down to Dubai finalists USA.
Perry Baker scored first for USA before Kevon Williams added to his 12-try haul in Malaga to put the Men’s Sevens Eagles into a commanding 14-0 lead. Spain, however, closed to within two points of USA at the break thanks to tries from Tobias Sainz-Trapaga and Eduardo Lopez. Williams’ second put daylight between the teams but much to the delight of the home crowd, Josep Serres found a way through the defence.
Sainz-Trapaga then got on the end of a Lopez offload and Spain started to dream of overturning the result from Malaga when USA won 19-14. However, there was still a few seconds left to play by the time Juan Martinez converted Sainz-Trapaga’s second try and USA managed to keep the ball from the restart and work space for Carlin Isles to score the match-equalising try. With Isles dotting down behind the posts, Stephen Tomasin made no mistake with the most straightforward of conversions to hand USA a two-point, 28-26 win.
KELLY’S A HERO FOR IRELAND MEN
Ireland rallied after going behind early to a John Dawe score to beat Germany 33-5. Dawe’s 29th birthday present had given Germany hope of a first-ever World Series win over Ireland at the third attempt. But the ever-impressive John Kelly started the comeback with a first-half brace before Andrew Smith, Niall Comerford and Tamilore Awonusi followed him over the whitewash in the second half.
Determined defending from Jamaica kept Argentina at bay until midway through the first half when Santiago Alvarez grabbed the first of his two tries. Luciano Gonzalez then scored on the stroke of half-time to give Los Pumas Sevens, runners-up in Malaga last weekend, a 14-0 cushion. Gonzalez and Alvarez crossed again and Rodrigo Isgro and Franco Sabato added their names on the scoresheet in a one-sided second half.
FRANCE OFF TO A FLYER
French rugby is in a really good place at the moment, and the men’s sevens team did their bit to maintain the feel-good factor with a comprehensive 38-12 win against Wales.
No defensive line is safe when Jordan Sepho has the ball and the 23-year-old helped himself to a hat-trick on the back of the hard work of his team-mates. Joachim Trouabal, Nelson Epee and Julien Blanc contributed the rest of France’s tries, with Morgan Williams and Ewan Rosser getting on the board for Wales.
World Series centurion Tom Bowen dotted down twice in a dominant 28-10 win for England over Japan. Bowen’s brace came between tries from Hayden Hyde and Blake Boyland. Japan’s effort was rewarded with a try at the end of each half for Taiga Ishida and Chikara Morita, respectively.
AUSTRALIA’S CAPTAIN MARVEL DOUBLES UP
Captain Henry Hutchison led the way as Australia began their campaign with a record 42-0 win against Kenya. The margin of victory narrowly surpassed their previous best against the Shujaa, a 47-7 win in Singapore in 2019. Pocket rocket, Maurice Longbottom scythed through the Shujaa defence for Australia’s third and Corey Toole added two more as Australia continued to rack up the points. Yool Yool, the first Sudanese-born player to represent Australia, rounded off proceedings.
Scotland overcame back-to-back yellow cards in the first half to see off Canada, 21-5. Gavin Lowe, Lee Jones and Paddy Kelly got Scotland’s tries with Alex Russell scoring a consolation for the North Americans.
ALL SET FOR A SIZZLING SATURDAY
The action continues in Seville on Saturday as the pool stages conclude in both the men’s and women’s tournaments before the quarter-finals take place.
Day two will get underway at 08:45 local time (GMT +1) when Canada men take on Kenya men at Estadio Olímpico de la Cartuja.
South Africa make their belated entry to the tournament, against Spain at 10:57, after being given a bye on the opening day due to Samoa’s withdrawal.
One of the most fascinating encounters in the men’s draw is the final game in Pool C between England and France, the sevens version of ‘Le Crunch’ kicking off at 15:19 local time.
For London-raised Aaron Grandidier, the match will be particularly poignant as he was in England’s system until he opted to wear the colours of his French-born mother.
Grandidier was delighted with the start that France made to the Seville tournament. “It was great fun, we are so happy to be out here and we are really looking forward to cracking on this weekend and, hopefully, getting revenge or last week’s loss against England,” he said.
After seven straight men’s matches, attention will then turn to the women’s competition and the completion of the pool stages.
Poland and Brazil get proceedings underway at 11:51 before unbeaten Russia and Ireland battle it out for supremacy at the top of Pool B.
The rest of the pool schedule features a North American derby between USA and Canada, where the Women's Sevens Eagles will look to set a new record winning run of 10 matches, while Australia against France, kick-off 13:41, should be a real humdinger given the form of the two sides.
The women’s Cup quarter-finals begin at 17:14 and the men’s just under two hours later, at 19:07.