2018 Dubai Women’s 7s: @USAWomens7s finish 4th, Black Ferns Win It All

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DUBAI, UAE – One of the biggest legs of the 2018/2019 Women’s Sevens World Series kicked off over the weekend. The second leg of this years series was in Dubai, which is also the first leg of the Men’s series so it was a massive 3 day competition which was fitting for one of the biggest “Fun” cities in the world. There was the usuall breathtaking action but this stop included some absolute nail-biting finishes and matches that were instant classics.  The @USAWomens7s had a good tournament and were able to finish 4th…. For the rest of the world, The New Zealand Black Fern 7s followed up their gold winning performance in Glendale with a another one here.

Americans finish 4th:

The Eagles had a good first day followed by an ok second day. It was their second tournament under a new coach so that may explain the better first day and and maybe head coach Chris Brown is starting to make an imprint on this team. Time will tell on that but going 2-1 on day 1 was a big positive but going 1-2 on day 2 was acceptable as the one win was the important one.

In their opening pool match win over China, the USA completed a key task. That task was putting away an opponent you are clearly better than early and not letting up. The USA started out hot and led 17-0 at the half and continued to pour it on in the 2nd half to win 31-0.  The next match was against one of their toughest opponents, England. This was a tough match as both teams showed great fitness organization in defense making it a low scoring affair. Through some steady defense, the USA forced a turnover and managed to turn it into a try. England showed some patience in attack and scored. both team made their conversion so the score at the half was 7-7. With 3 minutes to go the USA took the lead after executing a successful lineout and a patient side to side attack, but the the conversion was missed. This would be big because after the hooter had sounded, England was able to break through and score under the posts, making an easier conversion and winning the game 14-12. The final match of the day for the Eagles was against the Australia. Rugby is a funny old game, I tell ya! The USA has played England twice and lost to them twice by a combined 4 points. However, the opposite is true of Australia. The USA played another close game with the Aussies and once again won after the clock struck 0:00. The USA were the better team in contest, leading 7-5 at half and 17-5  with 4 minutes left in the game until Joanne Fa’avesi got a yellow card. In  quick strike fashion, the Aussies scored two tries to make it 17 all. It took a bit of individual brillance by Cheta Emba as she ripple the ball away in a tackle and then dashed off to dot it down and give the USA the win in the last play of the game.

USA team huddle before the game against England on day one of the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens 2018 women’s competition on 29 November, 2018. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

The USA was in Cup playoffs for back to back legs, but they were about to do one better. The USA would draw last year’s 4th ranked team France, the team most likely standing in the way of a top 4 finish. Not sure it is a good sign or not but this Eagles team lives on the edge. After two nail-biters, they weren’t done adding a third. In another tough contest the USA scored a converted try in the first half to go into halftime up 7-0. In the second half the USA, scored early to make it 12-0. It seemed like the USA was gonna cruise to a victory but things change fast in 7s. Before USA fans could enjoy the lead, the French scored two tries, with the second unconverted, by choice. Instead of trying to make a difficult kick from the corner to tie, the French decided to forgo the kick and get back to the center to try and collect a short kick and score a game-winning try. It was a bold move that unfortunately didn’t work out for them as the USA was able to collect the kick and hang on to win the game 12-10. The win put the USA in the semi-finals against the unstoppable  blackness, aka the New Zealand Black Ferns. In the semi-final match the USA, seemed to have run out of steam. 3 insanely tight matches sapped their strength and against a Black Ferns side that is relentless with and without the ball, they came a bit undone. They fought bravely but just couldn’t make passes stick, stop the offloads and make a half break into a try as they were shutout with the final score being 22-0 to the Black Ferns. The final match of the tournament saw the USA face Australia again with the Bronze medal on offer. This was another fantastic match and close battle. The USA seemed to have recovered from their loss to New Zealand as they fought the Aussies to a 14-14 halftime score. The nip and tuck action continued into the second as late in the game the two sides found themselves tied at 21-21. However, a yellow card to Naya Tapper followed by a yellow card to Abby Gustaitis meant it was 7-5 on the field late in the game and Australia is tough to beat with a full 7 so being two women down saw the Aussies score a try in the corner to win,  26-21.

The Unstoppable Blackness:

The New Zealand Black Ferns have won their last 7 tournaments if you include the Commonwealth Games and the 7s Rugby World Cup. They are 7 for their last 7.  They made some really good teams look like they were on a lesser tier. Their victims in the final was Canada. The Canadians had a good tournament and avoided the Black Ferns until the last match, which went as many expected. In third place were the Aussies, who are struggling to keep pace with the Ferns and unless they win the next leg may just be out of the title run altogether.

Russia turned some heads by beating out England to win 5th place in Dubai. Spain were hoping to win the Challenge Trophy like they did in Glendale to salvage something from the trip. They were upset in the Challenge final by none other than China who many have counted out and expect to be relegated at the end of the season.

Final standings were:
Cup: New Zealand
Second: Canada
Third: Australia
Fifth: Russia
Challenge Trophy: China

That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below.

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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.

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