A brace of tries from HSBC Player of the Final Tyla Nathan-Wong secured a fourth title in seven years for New Zealand at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2018 on Friday.
New Zealand had to work hard for their 26-14 victory over Canada, who were playing in their first Cup final at 7he Sevens Stadium in series history, but have now won their last 30 matches on the series and 39 in a row in global competitions.
The Black Ferns Sevens’ fifth tournament title in a row on the series means they have increased their lead in the standings to six points over Canada (34) with USA third on 32 and defending series champions Australia now fourth on 28 points after winning the bronze medal in Dubai.
Theresa Fitzpatrick opened the scoring in the final after coasting through a hole in the Canadian defence, before a quick tap penalty by Ghislaine Landry saw her go over under the posts to give herself an easy conversion for a 7-5 lead. Canada elected to play on after the half-time hooter sounded and paid the price when the ball was turned over and Nathan-Wong put in a burst of speed to race away for a 12-7 lead at the break.
Gayle Broughton then increased that lead only for Canada, bidding for their first Cup title since Sydney in 2017, to hit back almost immediately through a long run-in by Julia Greenshields. Canada, though, then lost Bianca Farella to the sin-bin for a high tackle and in her absence Fitzpatrick sold a dummy before releasing Nathan-Wong for her second try.
New Zealand captain Sarah Goss was named player of the tournament and said afterwards: “I feel amazing – Dubai is one of my favourite places to play. It’s been an amazing couple of days and I’m proud of the efforts of the girls. The new girls thrived and they will get better and better with the opportunity.”
Nathan-Wong added: “I’m stoked with the win – this tournament we really had each others’ backs. It doesn’t matter who’s wearing that black jersey, we’ve got each others’ back and we really stepped it up. We stayed composed and communicated really well and we got the win.”
AUSTRALIA SECURE BRONZE
Australia had lost two matches to last-gasp tries in Dubai this year, but finally came out on top in a nail-biting encounter after Lily Dick scored with time up on the clock to secure a 26-21 victory over the Women’s Sevens Eagles to claim the bronze medal. USA, who had beaten Australia at the death on day one, had led 21-14 through an Alev Kelter double and Naya Tapper try with Evania Pelite and Charlotte Caslick touching down for the Olympic champions. Caslick crossed again to tie the scores before Dick scored the match-winner.
New Zealand had earlier faced USA in the first semi-final only six weeks after beating them to win the HSBC USA Women’s Sevens in Glendale. Newly-crowned World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2018 Michaela Blyde scored two first-half tries to put the Black Ferns in control before completing her hat-trick shortly after the restart. Kelly Brazier then put in a kick for Shakira Baker to chase and touch down for a 22-0 victory.
Canada ended Australia’s bid to become the first to win back-to-back titles in Dubai thanks to Bianca Farella’s try with 15 seconds on the clock which secured a 15-10 win. An incredible chase-back from Pelite denied Farella a certain try in the second minute – a play that was later named the UL Mark of Excellence – before Brittany Benn and Ellia Green traded tries. A piece of brilliance from Landry, who hacked on her own kick-through before touching down, edged Canada ahead once more before Dom du Toit went over in the corner to tie the scores at 10-10.
Earlier in the Cup quarter-finals, New Zealand had kicked day two off with a comfortable 31-0 defeat of Russia in which Blyde became the fifth player to score 100 series tries. The first half, though, had been all about Brazier as she first ran through a gaping hole in the Russian defence for her first try before using her lethal step to leave the defence trailing in her wake again. Another break from Brazier in the second half set up Broughton before Goss and Blyde crossed to wrap up the win.
The second quarter-final was a far tighter affair, USA edging it 12-10 after France elected not to attempt the conversion to Anne Cecile Ciofani’s try because had Shannon Izar missed then the game was over. The decision didn’t pay off, though, as Nassira Konde was yellow-carded for tackling a player in the air from the restart and Kelter kicked the ball dead to the relief of her team-mates after they let slip a 12-0 lead through tries by co-captain Lauren Doyle and Kris Thomas.
England had beaten Australia for the first time in more than two years on day one, but they faced a totally different outfit in the third quarter-final. England scored the opening try through Deborah Fleming, but once Pelite combined with Green to send Caslick over there looked to be only one winner this time. Green raced away for their second try before Pelite scored the first of her three tries in an impressive display.
Ireland had impressed on day one, but an error from the kick-off by Lucy Mulhall gave Canada a dream start to the last quarter-final with Kaili Lukan dotting down before Farella ran in two tries for a 19-0 half-time lead. Louise Galvin did pull one try back after Ireland had almost butchered an easy try-scoring opportunity, but Olivia Apps’ break led to a try for Pam Buisa to seal a 24-7 win for the Canadians and a semi-final against Australia.
RUSSIA FINISH FIFTH
Elena Zdrokova’s try proved the difference in a tight fifth place play-off as Russia triumphed 12-7 over England. Baizat Khamidova had given the Russians the lead only for Ellie Kildunne to draw England level, before Zdrokova’s match-winning effort in the 10th minute. The seventh place play-off was in the balance until two tries in the last three minutes through Carla Neisen and Anne Cecile Ciofani secured France a 17-5 victory over Ireland who were unable to reproduce their impressive form of day one in the knockout stages.
In the fifth place semi-finals, Khamidova gave Russia the lead against France, but Caroline Drouin juggled a pass from Pauline Biscarat to cut the deficit to two points. Zdrokova raced through a break to score a long-range try on the stroke of half-time to edge Russia ahead and they pulled further ahead when Marina Kukina dotted down after Alena Mikhaltsova had been held up. Biscarat added a second try for France but it was only a consolation with Russia winning 21-10.
The second all-European semi-final was a close battle with England racing into a 12-0 lead through Abbie Brown and Holly Aitchison tries only for Ireland to close to within two points at half-time after tries by Hannah Tyrrell and Mulhall. Ireland edged ahead through Murphy Crowe despite having Mulhall in the sin-bin, but a double from Kildunne gave England the win, 22-17.
CHINA WIN CHALLENGE TROPHY
China secured their first trophy on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series after a 12-7 defeat of Spain in sudden-death extra-time in the Challenge Trophy final. Liu Xiaoquin had given China the lead in the first-half, but Spain kept plugging away and were finally rewarded when Beatriz Dominguez Sanchez finished off a move in the 13th minute. Neither side could find a winner so the match went to extra-time and with Spain without their captain Barbara Pla after a second yellow it was China who triumphed, releasing Hu Yu to race 50 metres to score the winning try.
Fiji, meanwhile, also finished on a winning note with a 19-5 defeat of Kenya in the 11th place play-off thanks to tries by Mereula Torooti, Naina Baleca and Vasiti Solikoviti. Janet Okello, though, once again showed her blistering pace to run in her third try of the tournament.
In the semi-finals, China heaved a huge sigh of relief after a Fijian break with time up on the clock came to nothing when Roela Radiniyavuni knocked on to mean they edged a tight battle 12-10. Hu Yu had given China the lead before Fiji stormed back with tries by Asinate Savu and Merewalesi Rokouono. However, a yellow card to Solikoviti for a dangerous tackle gave China the space for Ruan Hongting to score, Gu Yaoyao’s conversion of Hu’s try proving the difference between the teams at the end. Spain, meanwhile, scored three tries in the second half to also record their first win of the tournament, Olivia Fresneda, Ingrid Algar and Iera Echebarria breaking the half-time deadlock and ensuring a 24-7 victory. Algar had earlier given Spain the lead before Okello showed great pace and strength, handing off the Spanish defender before racing away for the Kenyan try.