GLENDALE, CO, USA – The 2018/2019 Women’s Sevens World Series kicked of the season with a a fantastic tournament that featured major upsets, close games, dominating performances and some beautiful rugby. The @USAWomens7s where up and down over the first two days by finished the tournament by claiming the Silver…. For the rest of the world, The New Zealand Black Fern 7s showed once again that they never rebuild but rather reload as they took home another cup to add to their collection.
The Eagles had a poor first day but a fantastic second day. It was their first tournament under a new coach so it is hard to judge which was the true team USA. It can be argued that they performed better the second day because new head coach Chris Brown had gotten rid of the first day jitters and made the necessary adjustments to improve the squad. The players also played better as they had more trust in each other and great support from the fans, is the prevailing logic.
In their opening pool match loss to England, the USA was a head for most of the match. The Eagles scored first courtesy of Ilona Maher, who had one heck of a debut tournament for the USA. Brown gets credit for adding Maher to the squad and Maher gets credit for making her presence felt. After Maher drew first blood for the USA, England responded with a converted try. The USA then scored a second try to take the lead but the try was unconverted meaning the USA was only up 10-7. The score would stay that way until the end of the game when England scored at the death to win 12-10. The next match was against the newest core member, China. The Chinese Women’s 7s team has made huge strides in a short amount of time to become a core team. If you taught they were to be taken lightly, well you thought wrong. The USA could not shake the Chinese as every time the USA got a lead China would answer back. The USA didn’t put the game away until late as they went up 24-14, lead by a Maher brace, and it proved to be not enough time for the Chinese to complete a comeback as the match ended 24-21 to the USA. The final match of the day for the Eagles was against the New Zealand Black Ferns. When you play one of the best teams in the world, you have to have a flawless performance. Unfortunately for the USA, that was not what happened in this game. The Unstoppable Blackness got an early lead and never looked back as they were up 28-0 at halftime and handed the USA a 35-12 loss.
The USA was lucky to make Cup playoffs. Because the women’s series has only 12 teams in pool play as opposed to the men’s 16 teams. So to make the cup playoffs quarterfinal the top two teams from each of the three pools progress to the cup playoffs. However that makes it only 6 teams, so the final two teams comes from the two best third place teams. In this tournament it was Ireland and the USA. The USA only made it thanks to a point differential of minus 22, which was better by one point to Spain‘s minus 23. Being the 8th seed the USA drew the first seed, Australia. Unlike against New Zealand, the USA came out on fire and they were the ones that got on top and stayed on top. Before on-lookers knew what happened, the USA was up 12-0. From there the USA continued to attack and find space, led by a hatrick by Maher,in her first tournament, the USA added more points as they took out the reigning series champs by a final score of 26-5. The win put the USA in the semi-finals against their new rivals, France. In the semi-final match the USA started in good form and fronted up well against the French. The match was tight after the first half at 7-7 but the USA struck first in the second half. Before USA fans could enjoy the lead, the French scored two tries, with the second unconverted, to take the lead. The French could have scored a third try if not for some fantastic defense from Maher. It would be another debutant to make a name for herself as Alena Olsen during the final possession of the game, after the hooter had blown, threw a dummy pass, broke the line and ran it in under the posts to give the USA a tie and with an easy conversion kick made by Alev Kelter, the USA were into the final, winning 21-19. The big win set-up a rematch against the Blackness, which unfortunately went the way the first match went. The USA tried to show more fight by scoring the first points of the match, however, the USA team seemed drained after raising their game to beat the Aussies and winning an instant classic against France. As the Black Ferns shifted it into another gear, the USA was unable to respond as NEw Zealand rattled off 33 unanswered points to win the game 21-5.
The Unstoppable Blackness:
The New Zealand Black Ferns have won their last 5 tournaments if you include the Commonwealth Games and the 7s Rugby World Cup. They once again steamrolled the competition as nobody really challenged them in any match. Canada unfortunately were one of the teams that fell to the Blackness in the Semifinals. The Canadians did well to shake off their loss and comeback to beat the French to win the bronze.
Australia had a great first day and did well to take fifth place following their shock loss to the USA. The more ominous thing for the Aussies is that last year they won the series because they beat out New Zealand’s on overall points despite only winning two tournaments to New Zealand’s three. The key was that in the first tournament New Zealand finished 5th with 12 standing points, which is exactly what the Aussies got now. So the Aussies will have to really turn it up for the next few rounds, but this year there is an extra tournament so they might be able to pull it off. It will be fun viewing regardless of how it ends up. Spain salvaged something from the trip as they won the Challenge Trophy.
Final standings were:
Cup: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: Spain
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below.
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