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The Australian Women’s Sevens have been unable to defend their title after a dramatic Rugby World Cup Sevens quarter final against Spain which went down to the wire.
The 16 team format then enabled Australia to challenge for the Plate. The semi-finals saw Australia beat local side Russia, earning them the right to face England in the Plate Final, held in Luzhniki Stadium.
The inclement weather wasn’t enough to stop the Australian side, led by courageous captain Sharni Williams, secure a decisive 14-5 win over iRB World Series runners up England.
Australian Women’s Sevens coach Chris Lane was impressed with the team’s performance after a disappointing start to the day.
“I am really proud of the way the girls picked themselves up after this morning’s defeat to Spain.
“They really rose to the occasion to win two tough games, including the additional challenge of adapting our plan and play to suit the weather conditions.”
Lane added, “The tournament has been a huge success for Women’s Rugby. We have a young squad here, and they will be stronger going into the World Series later in the year as a result.”
Captain Sharni Williams had an outstanding tournament and was satisfied with the final outcome.
“We wanted to go for the Cup of course, but this is the next best thing for us.
“I am so pleased with the girls. Everyone stepped up, fought hard and took the hits.”
Williams added, “It was an unusual tournament with the weather. We’re used to playing in 30 degree heat, but then playing in the pouring rain today was not something we’re used to. The final game has certainly given us confidence going into next season.”
CUP QUARTER FINAL - Australia v Spain
Another hot day in Moscow welcomed the Cup quarter-final match with the defending champions taking on Pool C’s second placed Spain.
Within moments of kick off, the Australians suffered a blow with try-scoring sensation Tiana Penitani leaving the field with a knee injury. Penitani’s replacement, Shontelle Stowers quickly made her presence felt, scoring within seconds of stepping onto the field giving Australia the early lead of 5-0.
Spain equalised in the fifth minute, capitalising on some poor defence and with a successful conversion took the lead. A great run by Emilee Cherry in the final stages of the first half gave Australia the edge leading 10-7 at half time.
The second half saw no change to the scoreboard and the win appeared to be a forgone conclusion for the Australian side.
But back-to-back title hopes were dashed in the dying moments of the game as Australia took their foot of the pedal. Berta Garcia took the ball out wide and ran it over the line for Spain, the desperate Australians unable to catch her to see the final result 14-10 in favour to the Europeans.
PLATE SEMI FINAL - Australia v Russia
The Russian side started strongly buoyed by local support. The opposition took the early lead after an inspired 30 metre run by Baizat Khamidova, which saw her chase down Amy Turner, saving what looked to be an assured try, and then heading up the other end to score.
With Russia leading Australia 5-0 at half-time, an infringement by Russia at the line out for being inside the 5 metre channel saw a yellow card given early in the second half offering Australia a much-appreciated advantage.
With Russia down to six players, captain Sharni Williams capitalised and a successful conversion by Katrina Barker gave Australia a 7-5 lead with four minutes to play.
Australia held on to the narrow lead to see them through to the Plate final against England, who beat Ireland convincingly 22-0.
PLATE FINAL – Australia v England
There was drama from the outset with a delayed start due to hazardous weather conditions.
Slippery ground made it tough for both sides with some early errors, however Australia was firmly in charge, dominating possession from the first play.
Twenty year old touch football convert Charlotte Caslick showed deft footwork to apply pressure in the English half. Aggressive work at the breakdown saw Emilee Cherry take advantage with a short ball to Katrina Barker metres from the try line to secure Australia an early lead.
A successful conversion off the boot of Barker extended the lead to 7-0 at half time, with England unable to get out of their own half. Great defense from England in the closing moments of the first half prevented a Sharni Williams try on the whistle.
The physicality of the game went up another notch in the second half with both teams showing tenacity and grit.
England took advantage of their kick off, and pinned Australia in their half to score within the first minute. An unsuccessful conversion saw Australia hold its 7-5 lead.
Australia then dominated possession with Williams hauling down England’s Jo Watmore on a decisive break. A pervasive Williams continued to put her body of the line.
Australia held the ball with composure for 15 phases, resulting in breaking of the England defense, and a courageous Sharni Williams sprint away with the ball and the title.
A second conversion by Barker took the final score to 14-5.
The Australian Women’s Sevens opened their tournament with wins over China 36-0, Ireland 22-5 and 29-0 to top their pool.
The Australian Men’s Sevens also topped their pool at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, with wins over Spain, 21-0, and Tunisia, 40-7, with a 17-17 draw against France in their final match of Pool A.
The Cup quarter-finals saw the Men’s side with a narrow 21-17 loss to England in the Cup quarter-final, giving them an equal fifth finish at Rugby World Cup Sevens.
AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S SEVENS - POOL PLAY
Australia 36 – China 0
Australia tries – Tiana Penitani (4), Amy Turner, Iliseva Batibasaga; Conversions – Sharni Williams (2), Katrina Barker
Australia 22 – Ireland 5
Australia tries –Williams, Emilee Cherry, Shontelle Stowers, Batibasaga; Conversions – Williams
Australia 29 – South Africa 0
Australia tries – Cherry (2), Penitani (2), Rebecca Tavo; Conversions – Williams, Barker
Australia 10 – Spain 14
Australia tries – Shontelle Stowers, Emilee Cherry
Australia 7 – Russia 5
Australia tries – Williams; Conversions – Barker
Australia 14 – England 5
Australia tries – Barker, Williams; Conversions – Barker (2)