The perfect season it may not be, but New Zealand achieved what they set out to do at the start of the season – qualify for the Olympic Games in 2016.
The Kiwis, unbeaten for 37 consecutive matches, were shocked on the first day of the Women’s Sevens Series in London on Friday when they were defeated by the never-say-die attitude of Spain, 19-15.
Despite the upset, Sean Horan’s charges retained their composure to cement their spot in Rio after easily defeating France in the last match of the day, 24-0. Speaking after officially booking their spot at the Olympics, captain Sarah Goss admitted that being qualified was a dream come true for the team.
“We’ve been focusing on this for the last three and a half years and for it to be a reality now is amazing. I’m just really proud of the girls, as they’ve put in a lot of hard work in the last six months. I’m speechless!”
Spain were rewarded for their plucky efforts with a quarter-final against heavyweights Australia. Hosts England failed to finish top of their pool after a 31-0 defeat by Canada in the last match of the day, and will play New Zealand in the last eight on Saturday.
Canada face Russia again in the first quarter final on day two, with USA v France battling it out in the other quarter-final; a match that France will want to win to help their Olympic qualification hopes.
New Zealand eased to a 34-0 win against Brazil in the first day of the game with two tries each from Portia Woodman and Kelly Brazier as they cruised to victory at The Stoop. But little did they know that the shock of the day, and possibly the tournament, awaited them. With the champagne bottles ready to pop, a last minute Patricia Garcia try put the celebrations on hold as Spain’s “Las Leonas” rejoiced following the historic victory.
Garcia admitted afterwards that it was a massive win for Spanish rugby, while New Zealand captain Sarah Goss conceded that Spain were better on the day: “Spain put up a good show like they always do – they are a quality side and unpredictable,” the captain said afterwards.
New Zealand made amends against France when they secured Olympic qualification and put one hand on the series trophy as they headed off to prepare for Saturday’s knockout stages.
As hosts in the last round in Langford, Canada struggled with the pressure of being the home side in front of an expectant crowd in British Columbia.
However, England showed no such signs early on day one in their home town, performing well in a victory over South Africa (28-7) and then putting in a strong shift to defeat Russia (21-12) at The Stoop.
Canada did well to defeat the Russians 14-12 on Friday and disposed of the South Africans with ease, scoring 45 unanswered points.
The heavyweights clashed at the end of the day and despite a promising start from England in the early exchanges, Canada ran out easy winners 31-0, with tries from the impressive Bianca Farella, a super effort from Ashley Steacy, one from team top-scorer Ghislaine Landry and two tries from Karen Pacquin.
Australia topped pool C after day one in London with two wins and a draw. Coming off the back of poor performances at the last two rounds, Tim Walsh’s team showed some of their early season form as they beat Fiji 15-5 and China, 31-0. A 12-12 draw had to suffice against a USA team with a strong defence, although questions will be asked as to why Tiana Pentani kicked the ball out when the clock went red, even though the Australians were on the attack.
Earlier at The Stoop, USA continued their impressive progression in the series, beating China 41-7 and Fiji 24-19 and play France in the quarter-finals.
The action now moves to Saturday which will give us more of an indication of who can qualify for the the three remaining Olympic places, currently occupied by Canada, Australia and France.
All the action will be streamed live on worldrugby.org and kicks off at 10.30am (BST) at The Stoop, home of Harlequins RFC. With the final round of the men’s season kicking-off across the road at Twickenham, the women’s final and 3rd place final will also take place at the home of England Rugby on Saturday evening.
Courtesy of World Rugby
« Tuilagi will not be picked for Rugby World Cup squad Springbok Sevens in series showdown with Fiji at London Sevens »