HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019: The story so far

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    As the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 draws to a conclusion with the HSBC France Women’s Sevens in Biarritz this weekend, we take a look back to see how the five previous rounds have unfolded.

    Biarritz provides the picturesque setting for the final round of HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 and there is plenty to play for on the Basque coast.

    New Zealand head into the HSBC France Women’s Sevens with a 12-point cushion at the top of the overall standings and will claim a fifth Women’s Sevens Series crown if they can finish seventh or higher.

    Beyond the race for the title, this series has been the principle route for Olympic qualification with the top four sides in the final standings guaranteed of a spot at Tokyo 2020.

    The Black Ferns Sevens confirmed their place in Langford last month, but only three of USA, Canada, Australia and hosts France will join them with other nations having to try and qualify through their regional tournaments or the Olympic repechage event.

    The USA will join New Zealand as soon as they take to the pitch at the Stade Aguiléra on Saturday with Canada and Olympic champions Australia favourites to join them, France needing to turn around a 14-point deficit in one tournament to overtake Australia.

    Anything can happen in sevens, though, so as you prepare for a thrilling weekend we look back to see how the 2019 series has played out so far.

    Glendale (Colorado, USA)

    Dates: 20-21 October, 2018
    Venue: Infinity Park

    Gold: New Zealand
    Silver: USA
    Bronze: Canada

    HSBC Dream Team: Kristina Seredina (RUS), Alev Kelta (USA), Sarah Hirini (NZL), Montserrat Amédée (FRA), Michaela Blyde (NZL), Kelly Brazier (NZL), Ilona Maher (USA)

    Ruby Tui
    Ruby Tui

    HSBC Player of the Final: Ruby Tui (NZL)

    DHL Impact Player: Alena Mikhaltsova (RUS)

    The series welcomed a new host city in October, but the opening round played out to a familiar script as New Zealand triumphed in Glendale. The Black Ferns Sevens went unbeaten throughout the weekend, beating the USA, England, China, Ireland and Canada before dashing the hosts’ hopes in the final. HSBC Player of the Final Ruby Tui proved the architect of a 33-7 showpiece win that included a Portia Woodman hat-trick. Black Ferns captain Sarah Hirini, who scored her side’s decisive third try in the final at Infinity Park, was delighted to open with victory having missed out on the 2018 series title to Australia by just two points. “We are just really pleased, we knew that the last world series stung us a bit and if we wanted to continue the success we have to be dominant in every single game and I thought the girls showed that,” she said. Elsewhere, Canada recovered from semi-final defeat to New Zealand to beat France 28-0 to claim the bronze medal on a weekend that saw Rugby Americas North champions Mexico make their series debut as the invitational team. Spain, meanwhile, left Glendale with silverware as the Erbina sisters, Amaia and Lide, shared four tries – including a hat-trick for the former – in a 20-14 Challenge Trophy final win over Fiji.

    Dubai

    Dates: 29-30 November, 2018
    Venue: 7he Sevens Stadium

    Gold: New Zealand
    Silver: Canada
    Bronze: Australia

    HSBC Dream Team: Brittany Benn (CAN), Evania Pelite (AUS), Sarah Hirini (NZL), Lauren Doyle (USA), Gayle Broughton (NZL), Kelly Brazier (NZL), Bianca Farella (CAN)

    Tyla Nathan-Wong
    Tyla Nathan-Wong

    HSBC Player of the Final: Tyla Nathan-Wong (NZL)

    DHL Impact Player: Evania Pelite (AUS)

    UL Mark of Excellence: Evania Pelite for try-saving tackle against Canada in Cup semi-final

    New Zealand continued their dominant start to the series as they secured a fourth title in seven years in Dubai, continuing their trend of winning every other year. For a fifth tournament in a row the Rugby World Cup Sevens winners did so without losing a single game, taking their unbeaten streak to 30 series matches with victories against Kenya, Russia (twice), Ireland, USA and Canada. The Canadians, playing their first ever Cup final at 7he Sevens Stadium, were beaten 26-14. They had stayed in touch for much of the match but two tries and three conversions from HSBC Player of the Final Tyla Nathan-Wong ultimately proved decisive. “I’m stoked with the win,” she said. “This tournament we really had each others’ backs.” Australia had lost two matches in the closing seconds in Dubai but had the last laugh as Lily Dick’s try with time up gave them victory in the bronze final, where they overcame the USA 26-21. Challenge Trophy honours went to China, who beat Spain 12-7 in sudden-death extra-time to claim their first piece of silverware on the Women’s Sevens Series.

    Sydney (Australia)

    Dates: 1-3 February
    Venue: Spotless Stadium

    Gold: New Zealand
    Silver: Australia
    Bronze: USA

    HSBC Dream Team: Eve Higgins (IRE), Sarah Hirini (NZL), Sharni Williams (AUS), Lucy Mulhall (IRE), Evania Pelite (AUS), Gayle Broughton (NZL), Ellia Green (AUS)

    Stacey Waaka
    Stacey Waaka
    HSBC Player of the Final: Stacey Waaka (NZL)

    DHL Impact Player: Michaela Blyde (NZL)

    UL Mark of Excellence: Michaela Blyde for hat-trick in Cup final

    Another tournament, another title for New Zealand as the Black Ferns Sevens became the first in Women’s Series history to triumph in six successive rounds. It meant that they left Sydney holding all six active series titles, having avenged their painful 31-0 final loss to hosts Australia in 2018. That defeat to their great rivals marked a watershed moment for the Black Ferns Sevens, who did not lose a single competitive match in the following 12 months. Victory in Sydney was earned thanks to a 34-10 final defeat of Australia that featured a brace of tries from HSBC Player of the Final Stacey Waaka and hat-trick from DHL Impact Player Michaela Blyde. Having again gone unbeaten in round three, New Zealand left Sydney just one win away from equalling their own record of 37 consecutive series wins. “Since the Commonwealth Games final we’ve completely turned around our culture, our game-plan and mindset,” Blyde explained. “We’ve got a really tough year coming up with Olympic qualification this year and Olympics next year so every tournament, team and game is one you’ve got to not take lightly. We’re coming out on top and that’s good.” It proved to be third time lucky for the USA, who beat first-time semi-finalists Ireland 26-10 in the bronze final following showpiece defeats in medal matches in both Glendale and Dubai. Fiji, meanwhile, became the third different winner of the Challenge Trophy as they edged England 15-12 in the final.

    Kitakyushu (Japan)

    Dates: 20-21 April
    Venue: Mikuni World Stadium

    Gold: Canada
    Silver: England
    Bronze: USA

    HSBC Dream Team: Karen Paquin (CAN), Alex Matthews (ENG), Chloé Pelle (FRA), Anne-Cécile Ciofani (FRA), Alev Kelter (USA), Ghislaine Landry (CAN), Holly Aitchison (ENG)

    Ghislaine Landry
    Ghislaine Landry

    HSBC Player of the Final: Ghislaine Landry (CAN)

    DHL Impact Player: Charlotte Caslick (AUS)

    UL Mark of Excellence: France for first-ever win over New Zealand

    All good things must come to an end, and for New Zealand that moment arrived in Japan where – having secured a record-equalling 37th consecutive series win against the hosts – a pool stage draw against Russia and first-ever defeat to France brought the Black Ferns Sevens’ run to an end. They would finish the tournament fifth, paving the way for Canada to claim their first title since Sydney in 2017, following the lowest-scoring final in women’s series history. England had led 5-0 through an Amy Wilson Hardy try as the clock went red, but were unable to hold on as Canada captain Ghislaine Landry spotted a gap, scored under the posts and then converted to hand her side the most dramatic of victories. It was a marked improvement for the Canadians, who had finished 11th in Japan 12 months previously. “It was such a fight, time is up Sand the girls kept their composure and to be able to finish that off feels pretty great,” Landry said. “Everything we threw at them they had an answer for, so testament to England, they had a great weekend and gave us everything they had in that final.” In the bronze final, USA recovered from shipping two early tries against France to run out 36-12 winners and claim a second successive third-place finish. Fiji also celebrated back-to-back success in Japan as they beat Spain 41-21 in the Challenge Trophy final, easing their relegation fears a little in the process.

    Langford (Canada)

    Dates: 11-12 May
    Venue: Westhills Stadium

    Gold: New Zealand
    Silver: Australia
    Bronze: USA

    HSBC Dream Team: Karen Paquin (CAN), Ruby Tui (NZL), Charlotte Caslick (AUS), Emma Tonegato (AUS), Kristi Kirshe (USA), Kelly Brazier (NZL), Ellia Green (AUS)

     Rugby Canada Women 7s team

    HSBC Player of the Final: Tyla Nathan-Wong (NZL)

    DHL Impact Player: Brittany Benn (CAN)

    UL Mark of Excellence: Referee Sara Cox for taking charge of her 100th series match during the tournament

    New Zealand had more than one reason to rejoice as the series visited Langford. Having got back to winning ways with pool stage victories over Russia, China and England on day one, the Black Ferns Sevens booked their place in the semi-finals with a 17-7 defeat of Spain. That win not only kept them on course for a fourth tournament win of the 2019 series but also secured qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. The USA need just one point in Biarritz to stamp their own ticket to Japan, but it was the Black Ferns Sevens who prevailed in the pair’s last-four match-up before New Zealand sealed the overall title with a narrow 21-17 win over Australia in the final. “It’s pretty fantastic to know that we’ve qualified our country for the Olympics, especially as there’s only one tournament left,” Tyla Nathan-Wong, again the difference in the final for New Zealand, said. “We’re going to want to work hard over these next few weeks, build towards our last tournament in France and hopefully go out there and put on another good show.” The Women’s Sevens Eagles rebounded from a third semi-final defeat of the season to New Zealand to win a second successive bronze medal in Canada, beating France 26-5. Fiji took a large stride towards retaining their core team status for 2020 as they claimed the Challenge Trophy for the third straight event, Vasiti Solikoviti scoring late on to secure a 26-19 win against China.