Australia’s women entered the second day of the Hamilton Rugby Sevens undefeated.
A win in their last pool match would allow them to progress to the semi-final of the event. A high tournament finish would keep the Aussies in good contention for the 2019-20 World Rugby Sevens series championship.
At the start of the day they were ranked second, six points behind New Zealand.
Keeping a high ranking would also serve as a confidence booster for the Aussie team as they enter an Olympic year as defending gold medalist. The Australians have already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics occurring later this year.
The Aussies played three matches on the second and final day of the Hamilton 7s, Sunday the 26th of January, 2020.
First Match of the day: Australia v the USA
The first match of the day was Australia’s final pool match against the USA. Having played and defeated both Brazil and Russia on Saturday the 25th a win would ensure them progression to the semi-finals.
Their USA game was described by American coach Chris Brown as a practice Olympic semi-final match.
Ellia Greene was the star of this match. She opened the scoring with the first try. After the Aussies failed to convert their kick, the US then took the lead with a try and a conversion of their own.
The Aussies then regained the ball but a subsequent interception then led to the Aussies having to show their defensive strength to properly contain their American counterparts.
The Aussies then produced an interception of their own, picked up by Greene who ran a significant length of the pitch, scoring the team’s second try.
The second half started with the Aussies in the lead. However, a USA try and conversion put the Australians on the back foot. The Aussies responded with another Ellia Green try, who finished the game with a hat trick.
Australia won the match 19-14, topping Pool B. This ensured their place in the semi-finals where they then met Pool C winners, fourth overall ranked Canada.
Both the Aussies and the Canadians entered the semi-finals undefeated in the Hamilton tournament pool stage.
Semi-Final Game: Australia v Canada
The Australians kicked off the first half, opening the scoring with a Shani Williams try off an Ellia Green pass.
Canada’s Bianca Farella then scored her 150th rugby 7s international try, placing her second internationally only to New Zealand’s Portia Woodman. Canada gained the lead with a successful conversion.
They held this lead only for a short time. Cassie Staples almost immediately found a gap in Canada’s defense, when the women in red had a player down and ran most of the pitch before passing to a supporting Ellia Green who scored Australia’s second try. Canada closed off the half with a second try and conversion of their own.
Australia started the second half behind by two points. Facing a physical Canada, who at several times seemed to outmuscle their Aussie counterparts, Australia were finally able to break through a tough Canadian defense with a speedy Dominique Du Toit try.
💨 Dom du Toit with speed to burn!— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) January 26, 2020
However it wasn't enough as the @Aussie7s women have lost to @RugbyCanada in the semi-finals. #Hamilton7s #NZSevens
READ: https://t.co/f8wc7Y1ru7 pic.twitter.com/17RxnVBvRH
A subsequent two Canadian tries and conversions put the northerners back in the lead though. The Canadians won the game 28-19 and sealed their place into the cup final. A disappointed Australia were then set to play the third-place game against France.
Bronze medal game: Australia v France
The game started with Australia struggling to advance against a very physical and defensive France. The French gained possession of the ball through a turnover and only had a short distance to run to score the match’s first try and subsequent conversion.
They followed this up quickly with a second try and conversion after managing to take the ball off the Aussie women.
Facing a fourteen-point deficit, Faith Nathan was able to then steal the ball off the French. The 19-year-old then ran the ball straight between the posts to score a try right before the first half ended.
The Aussies entered the second half seven points behind. The beginning of the second half was a defensive matchup between the Australian and French women.
The contest seemed equal between both sides until Sariah Paki received a yellow, her second of the weekend, leaving the Aussies one woman down.
The French capitalized on this numerical advantage, scoring a try that brought them 12 points clear of Australia with less than two minutes to go.
The Aussies fought for the remaining part of the half, at times more against themselves than against the French.
After several missed passes which luckily did not result in a turnover, Australia’s Demi Hayes found space in a French gap and sprinted a significant part of the pitch to Australia’s second try.
🏃â€â™€ï¸ Demi Hayes wins the foot race but the @Aussie7s women ultimately lose out to France in the bronze medal match. #Hamilton7s #NZSevens— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) January 26, 2020
READ: https://t.co/f8wc7Y1ru7 pic.twitter.com/irmum7yPp6
This, however, was too little too late. The Aussies lost the match 14-19, finishing fourth in the event.
Going Forward: Sydney 7s next weekend
The result is not the one the Australians may have hoped for. While it could be described as a satisfactory one for the first tournament of 2020, it is arguably not what the Australian’s will be aiming for in terms of form should as they try to defend their gold medal.
While this weekend’s tournament showed how the current combination of youngsters and veterans in the team has significant potential, their performances also highlighted several weaknesses.
The ability of teams to contain the Aussie women defensively was on display several times on Sunday. It left the Australians looking unable to find space and often losing ground instead of gaining it. This was especially apparent against stronger and higher-ranked teams.
The Aussie’s inconsistency in scoring conversions in this tournament, missing on average one per match, is also concerning. While conversion points were not the deciders of any of their games in this tournament, conversions can be the points that win a match. This is an area to improve.
Sharpening up on missed passes and turnovers will also be a point of focus for Australia. Arguably for the first tournament in almost a month and a half, some rustiness was to be expected though. These are but a few of the things the team will be working on in the upcoming months building to Tokyo.
In the meantime, they remain in second place with 64 points in the 2019-20 World Rugby Sevens Series Championship. Canada is now close behind in third with 62 points. With their Hamilton 7s win, New Zealand now surpass the Aussies by 12 points, with 76 cumulative points.
Ellia Green, was named to the HSBC Dream Team for the tournament.
The Australians can look forward to a home tournament next weekend. The next event in the World Rugby Sevens Series, the Sydney7s, will take place in Sydney, NWS on February 1-2, 2020.