Big guns book semi-place at women's HSBC Canada Sevens
In a packed BC Place in Vancouver, the quarter-finals saw Australia, USA, France and New Zealand advance to the last four of the HSBC Canada Sevens women's tournament.
After slipping up at home at the end of January with a fifth-place finish, Australia have a great opportunity to get back on the medal podium when they meet the USA in the semi-finals, a team that has medalled in every tournament since the start of the season.
The Aussies failed to qualify for the Cup Final in Hamilton and Sydney and will be looking to avoid three consecutive tournaments without a top-two finish for the first time since the 2012-13 Series.
The second semi-final will see Sydney silver medallists France take on New Zealand, who won their third consecutive gold medal in Sydney and lead the World Series standings, challenged by hosts Canada in the quarter-finals.
It's official!@nz_sevens are qualified for #Paris2024 🏅#Canada7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/NvpwUz1LQs— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) March 5, 2023
This qualification for the semi-finals allows the Blacks Ferns Sevens to automatically qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. New Zealand is the second team after hosts France to qualify and the first purely on the back of their results on the World Series this season.
SEE THE RESULTS OF THE WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT >>>
QUARTER-FINALS: FRANCE GET PAST IRELAND THIS TIME
In the first quarter-final, Australia, defending World Series champions, easily overcame Fiji (29-5) thanks to five tries, including a brace from Maddison Levi (nine so far this weekend), who leads the DHL Impact Player standings. Australia never looked in trouble, but they will be looking to work on "the basics", according to Madison Ashby at the end of the match, to try and win their semi-final.
Against an improving Great Britain team, USA had to show great determination to win in the second quarter-final. Ilona Maher and Kris Thomas scored in the first half to keep the score at 10-0 after an exceptionally long first half of 10 minutes. The string-running Alev Kelter did not disappoint in her return to the squad, scoring a second-half brace to seal the score (24-5) and send USA into the semi-finals, keeping with the tradition the Women's Eagles Sevens have set for themselves since the start of the season.
The third quarter-final had a taste of déjà vu between France and Ireland, two teams who had faced each other at the same level of the competition in Cape Town and Hamilton, with the Irish winning both times.
Taking advantage of a lacklustre start from France and thanks to their good ball control, Ireland took the lead through Megan Burns. While Lucy Mulhall was in the sin-bin after a yellow card, Les Bleues took advantage of their numerical superiority to send Joanna Grisez in just before needed to be turned into seven for Ireland to maintain their interest in the tie. However, like with the first conversion attempt, it was off target.
The last quarter-final between New Zealand and Canada was marked by Kelly Brazier's 200th game on the World Series. The milestone was highlighted by tries from Portia Woodman-Wickliffe and Michaela Blyde's sixth of the weekend in the first half.
The Canadian team was without the ball for a long time and had to wait until they were a player up following a yellow card to Blyde, to come back to claw back five points, Keyara Wardley finishing off a lovely team move. It was an effort that gave the hosts hope, but it wasn't enough to win the game, which would have been a great achievement considering the calibre of opposition.
POOL A: A DELUGE OF TRIES AGAINST COLOMBIA
Great Britain scored a torrent of tries against a young Colombian invitation team making only their second appearance on the Series. Five tries in the first half - including a hat-trick from Jasmine Joyce - and four in the second half ensured a 57-0 victory for GB, who secured second place in the pool as aresult of the win.
New Zealand had a tougher time against Fiji in their 18th win in as many games against their Pacific neighbours. Michaela Blyde, the second top try-scorer of the season, was imperious in defence and attack, denying Fiji the lead after just a few seconds and scoring two tries in each of the two halves. She was followed over the line by Sarah Hirini and Jazmin Felix-Hotham.
Despite Fiji hitting back through Ana Maria Naimasi, the Black Ferns Sevens won 24-7 to set them up for a quarter-final against Canada while Fiji was to meet Australia.
POOL B: AUSTRALIA NEVER LETS GO OF THE BALL
The first match of the day in Pool B saw Japan get their first win at the HSBC Canada Sevens by beating Spain, who were heavily punished for losing a heavily punished for losing Ingrid Algar to the sin-bin, by three tries to two in a 17-12 victory.
Top spot in Pool B was then decided between Australia and France. Thirty seconds after kick-off, the Levi sisters combined to open the score (the try by Maddison and the conversion by Teagan), taking advantage of a missed tackle by the French. Two missed opportunities on the line by Seraphine Okemba and Chloe Pelle prevented France from getting back into the game before the break and they trailed 7-0.
After three minutes of being repelled by the blue wall, Australia managed to find the breakthrough thanks to Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea. If Jade Ulutule "forgot" to touch down (the try denied on video), Joanna Grisez made no mistake a few seconds later.
Despite a comeback by Australia with their third try from Biel Terita, it was France, who lived off scraps of possession for most of the match, who had the last word thanks to Ian Jason to take the match 21-10.
It was an effort that helped secure France's place in the quarter-finals as pool runners-up to Ireland, while Australia were scheduled to meet Fiji.
POOL C: CANADA SAVES THE DAY
Ahead of the game against Brazil, Bianca Farella stepped onto the BC Place indoor pitch alone, marking her 45th tournament on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, a record she celebrated by scoring one of her team's five tries. The match result was equally important in Canada's ongoing battle to avoid relegation.
The 31-7 win for the Canadians was good for them as they qualified as the best third-placed team for their second quarter-final of the season (after Cape Town) against New Zealand. On the other hand, Brazil proved their resilience by holding on in the first half and scoring in extra time.
The clash between USA and Ireland concluded the pool phase with the top of Pool C at stake, knowing that both teams had already qualified for the quarter-finals after their victories on the first day. Ireland took advantage of a yellow card to Kris Thomas to score two tries in the first half before the Women's Eagles Sevens closed the gap before the break, setting the stage for a high-intensity second half.
After a brace from the mighty Naya Tapper, Ireland tried to get back into the game but fell behind by two points (19-17). As a result, the Women's Eagles Sevens would meet Great Britain in the quarter-finals, while Ireland would once again meet France.
The placing matches
At the bottom of the table, Spain beat Brazil 12-5 in the first semi-final for ninth place and then Japan scored six tries against Colombia, 43-0, in the second.