11 Apr Aussie Women’s Sevens edge closer to maiden World Series title after NZ win
The Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team are within touching distance of the country’s first-ever World Series title after winning the Atlanta Sevens this morning (Sunday).
Wagga Wagga local Alicia Quirk helped the side to the title, providing a key try assist in the semi-final before getting over the line herself in the final against New Zealand.
Australia saw off New Zealand (24-19) in an epic tournament decider having earlier produced two huge performances to beat hosts USA (22-5) and Canada (26-14) in the Quarter and Semi-Finals.
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “In Sao Paulo we played an intelligent game to win in the wet whereas here in Atlanta we had to do it in a different way. I’m so proud of the team and with our experienced players who played a lot of minutes. They had to find ways to adapt their game, particularly today, with the amount of time they were on the pitch.
“The opposition is improving and it’s only getting harder to win these tournaments. I thought England put us to the sword yesterday and are looking like the team they have threatened to be for a while. They were better than us and it’s up to us to find ways to get better. There are so many areas that we can still improve on which makes this journey so exciting.”
The Australians returned to its best form in the defeat of a rejuvenated United States in the Cup Quarter-Final. The Aussies got off to a lightning quick start and slick play in the back line saw Emilee Cherry feed Emma Tonegato to dot down in the left corner. Brilliant footwork from the same player saw Tonegato score her eighth try of a prosperous weekend for the Wollongong-born flyer.
A break from the Americans saw the green and gold on the back foot for the final two minutes of the first half but resilient defence held off the hosts despite skipper Shannon Parry being yellow carded. Cherry and Dominique Du Toit put the tie beyond doubt with tries of their own before Jessica Javelet scored what proved no more than a consolation for the Americans.
Tim Walsh’s side were forced to raise its game once again against previously unbeaten Canada who themselves had reached the Cup Semi-Finals with relative ease. However, it was the Australians that got off to a flyer once again as Charlotte Caslick released Emma Tonegato with a clever inside ball to open the scoring.
Two minutes later, after some quick hands in midfield, the ball found its way to Caslick on the left who broke the tackle of Kayla Moleschi to double her sides advantage. Despite being on the back foot for the majority of the opening period, it was the Canadians who had the final say with Ghislaine Landry outpacing the Australian defence to score a classy long range try.
Canada leveled up matters up two minutes into the second half when pacy powerhouse Karen Paquin scored in the corner. In a see-saw contest played at a frenetic pace, Australia once again hit the front when Tonegato broke the line to find Emilee Cherry who made no mistake. Walsh’s side sealed a memorable win after an outrageous show and go from Shannon Parry pierced the Canadian defence in midfield. The skipper offloaded to the supporting Alicia Quirk who in turn found Tonegato for her tenth try of the weekend.
Australia’s trend of starting each game on the front foot continued in the Cup Final as they raced into a 19-point lead against New Zealand. Player of the Final Charlotte Caslick squirmed through the opposition defence to dot down before Alicia Quirk scored on the left a minute later. Emilee Cherry capped a perfect start for the Australians when she intercepted a loose pass to score right under the posts.
Selica Winiata brought New Zealand back into the contest right on the half-time siren after an extended passage of play in Australia’s 22. However, Australia put the game beyond doubt when Cherry expertly turned over the ball at the breakdown before finding the onrushing Caslick to score on the right with four minutes left on the clock. Portia Woodman and Winiata scored tries in the final 90 seconds but it wasn’t enough for the three-time World Series champions.
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens outside back Emma Tonegato was named Player of the Tournament for the astonishing ten tries she scored across the weekend in the United States.
On Tonegato’s display, Walsh added: “Emma was absolutely world class in this tournament. She was packing in scrums, she was out on the wing. She demonstrated an array of skills and is a valued member of this squad. Emma fits in perfectly with the team ethos we have and to watch her flourish as a person and as a Rugby Sevens player has been so rewarding.”
Elsewhere at Fifth-Third Bank Stadium in Atlanta, fast-improving England took third spot after beating Canada (26-14) while hosts USA beat Russia (19-7) to finish fifth and claim the Plate.
With just two rounds remaining of the 2015-16 HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series, Australia leads the standings with 60 points, 14 points clear of New Zealand with Canada a further four points back.
The fourth leg of the season heads north to Langford in Canada next weekend with Australian Head Coach Tim Walsh set to name his 12-strong squad on Tuesday.
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens results for the Atlanta Sevens at Fifth-Third Bank Stadium, Atlanta, 9-10 April:
Australia 7-21 England, Pool A
Australia 34-0 Colombia, Pool A
Australia 22-5 Fiji, Pool A
Australia 22-5 USA, Cup Quarter-Final
Australia 26-14 Canada, Cup Semi-Final
Australia 24-19 New Zealand, Cup Final
Final placings for the Atlanta Sevens (Top 6): 1. Australia (20 World Series points), 2. New Zealand (18 points), 3. England (16 points), 4. Canada (14 points), 5. USA (12 points), 6. Russia (10 points)
Current 2015-16 HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series standings (Top 6 – after three rounds): 1. Australia (60 World Series points), 2. New Zealand (46 points), 3. Canada (42 points), 4. England (38 points), 5. France (34 points), 6. Russia (32 points)