The Sydney 7s is the fifth tournament of the 2019-20 World Rugby Series.  It is being held at  Paramatta’s Bankwest Stadium.  The new two-day series tournament format started in last week’s Hamilton 7s. 

This formal only allows the top team in each pool and the top second-placed team progress to the semi-finals. 

Entering the Sydney 7s, the Australians are currently ranked second in the series rankings with 64 points. 

Canada is close behind, after their second-place win last week at the Hamilton 7s, with 62 points.  First-place New Zealand’s hometown win shot them 12 points ahead of the Aussies. 

The need to win every match and the home town tournament are arguably just some of the factors behind this Australia team’s current motivation. 

The Aussies no doubt want to perform better than their fourth-place standing last week and close the gap with their trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand.   

There are also several areas of improvement the Australians need to work on, notably their defending, their conversions, and their general sharpness, as they build towards their gold medal Olympic defence later this year in Tokyo.

Entering the Sydney 7s two changes in the squad from last week’s Hamilton 7s, the first tournament of this calendar year.  Charlotte Caslick and Shannon Parry both returned from injury displacing Emma Sykes and Rhiannon Byers.

The Sydney 7s would not be an easy task for the Aussies or any other team.  The first day proved to be especially difficult for those coming from colder climates. 

With the temperature and humidity reaching into the 40s in Sydney, it was a true Australian summer tournament.

Pool A was drawn with England, New Zealand, Japan, and Russia.  Pool B was drawn with Canada, Fiji, the USA, and Brazil.  Australia’s Pool C group contains France, Ireland and Spain.

On the first day of competition, February 1, 2020, Australia faced Spain and Ireland. 

Pool Game 1:  Australia vs Spain

The first game of the day might as well have been named the Charlotte Caslick and Ellia Green show. 

The two veteran Aussies demonstrated their skill, pace and most importantly knowledge of each other, supplying all the tries for Australia as well as nearly all the assists of the first pool match.

Caslick celebrated her return from injury in style, scoring the first try of the match in the 3’ minute. 

After Spain put on the early pressure, Caslick was able to pick up a ball off a Spanish downfield kick.  She then beat three Spanish players, slicing through with the use of her trademark footwork and ran a significant length of the pitch to put Australia up 5-0. 

Ellia Green, named in last weekend’s Hamilton 7’s dream team, followed this up in the 5’ minute.  

Her teammate Emma Tonegato had retrieved the play for Australia after diving onto a loose ball. 

After a further penalty was given in Australia’s favour 30 meters from the try line, Caslick then ran diagonally across the pitch and proceeded to make a nice combination pass to Green who sprinted to her first try of the Sydney tournament. 

After the conversion, Australia were up 12-0. 

Closing in on the last minute off the first half a warmed up Caslick then went to score her second of the match. 

She had started with the ball off a step piece play and opted to run it herself, ghosting through the Spanish line and sprinting up the left hand of the pitch.  The try and subsequent conversion brought the Aussies to a 19-0 lead.

After the kick-off in the final minute of the half, Australia gained the ball off a Spanish penalty and yellow card to Garcia. 

Caslick then received the ball off a pass from the restart, running it forward before opting to pass it to Green.  Green then ran it up the right side of the pitch to her second try of the first half.  The home team entered halftime at 26-0.

Green continued her scoring account in the second half. Australia were given the ball after another yellow card to Spain. 

They worked it quickly from right to left following the restart, finishing with a final pass to Green. The converted runner showed off her speed by easily passing the Spaniard marking her to run the ball to mark her hat trick try.  

After the following conversion, this brought Australia up to a 33-0 scoreline. 

Both the Aussies and the Spaniards kept battling for the remainder of the second half, with several youngsters from both teams being substituted on, the scoreline remained as it was.

Pool Game 2:  Australia vs Ireland

 In their second pool match, Australia faced 10th ranked Ireland.  

Aussie Captain Sharni Williams opened the scoring for the hosts.   The Australians were able to stretch the Irish defence, through precise and intelligent passing, with Caslick making the critical pass to Williams who ran the ball in for the first try. 

After the conversion, Australia was up 7-0.

Caslick then continued her incredible form.  After receiving a pass just past the 50 metre mark, she stepped two defenders to then sprint for her first try of the game, a third for the day.  Australia found themselves up 12-0 with 3 minutes left in the first half.

Dominique du Toit then ran in a third try for the Aussies. The flyer received a pass wide and sprinted on the left side of the pitch from just inside the 10 metre to the try line. 

Caslick, the superstar of the day, then quickly followed this up in the last few seconds of the first half.  After Williams regained the ball from the Irish, at their 22-metre line, she ran forward before l passing it to Caslick.  

Caslick then beat three defenders to score the match’s fourth try. 

The Aussies entered halftime up 22-0. 

Credit must be given to the Irish, they did not give up.  After the restart, they put together a combination of passes and found space forward.  

They managed to press the Australian defence to within 10 meters of the Aussie try line. An Irish penalty though gave Australia the ball and put them back into the attack. 

Australia then moved its way up the pitch through smart passing.  An opening was found at the 22-metre mark with a Williams pop ball to Caslick who ran it home for a hat trick.  After the conversion the Australians found themselves looking at a 29-0 scoreline.

The Australian pressure on the Irish continued into the latter part of the second half. Facing minimal possession and finding themselves constantly on the back foot, Ireland continued to largely defend as the Aussies gained ground. 

After regaining the ball in the 11th minute, the Irish pressed and the ball, painfully trying to gain ground in an attempt to get their first try.  However, an interception led to Australia regaining the ball. 

The Aussies immediately passed it to the left until it found Ellia Green who was able to run it forward on the wing before passing it to Parry who with loads of space ran it in for a try. 

The Australians were now up 34-0 with 34 seconds left on the clock.  In the final seconds, Ellia Green was given a yellow for a high tackle.  The Irish kept trying to move forward but the game ended when they lost the ball.

Day One Conclusion

The Aussies finished the day clearly satisfied with their efforts.  Arguably two wins with 67 aggregate points scored and no points conceded is a terrific first day.  Their biggest pool rival France remains though, to be met tomorrow morning, February 2, 2020, at 10:35 AM.

France also won both their pool matches, 40-14 against Ireland and 42-7 against Spain. Australia remain atop pool C due to points difference. 

The Aussies will need a win or a draw to remain first in the pool and be guaranteed a semi-final place in the tournament.   A French win is not outside the realistic realm of possibility.  They beat Australia last weekend in the 3rd place match by a scoreline of 19-14. 

Should Australia come second in the pool, they would need to finish the top second-place team to progress to the semi-final.  If not they would qualify for the 5th place game, meaning the lowest position they can finish at present is 6th.

Today’s tournament featured a fundraising component for the Bushfire appeal.  A total of $1500 would be donated per Australian try.  The Aussie 7 women raised $16500 through today’s performance.