A brave effort from the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team in the Cup Final of the Guangzhou Sevens was not enough to see them slip to a 26-12 defeat to New Zealand in the pouring rain in China.
Sarah Goss opened the scoring before wonderful hands on the left from the Kiwi backs released Huriana Manuel to give New Zealand a 12-0 advantage. Emilee Cherry – with her sixth try of the tournament – reduced the arrears with yet another break from midfield after being set clear by Charlotte Caslick.
Carla Hohepa crossed over to make it 19-5 early in the second half before Aussie skipper Sharni Williams carried over what seemed the entire New Zealand defence from the ten metre line to put her country within a converted try away.
However, the explosive Portia Woodman – whose opportunities had been relatively limited in the game – picked up on a loose ball on the left to seal the game for New Zealand.
Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “The girls and staff are very disappointed with the loss but from how we played yesterday it was a much-improved performance. We found some urgency and aggression and played closer to our potential today.”
Walsh is already looking forward to getting back on the training paddock with the team. “The losses highlighted a few deficiencies which we can work on back at Narrabeen.
“[Nicole] Beck and [Gemma] Etheridge were welcomed back with some valuable minutes and [Emilie] Cherry was ubiquitous as ever and was our player of the tournament.
“The stage is set for a World Series bout in Amsterdam next month.”
IRB World Series debutant Nicole Beck said: “The speed of the game in the Cup Final was amazing. Overall, the skill level of all the teams was really impressive. It was great being back playing for Australia and I can’t wait for the next opportunity.”
Earlier, two incredible defensive efforts from the Aussies against Spain and Canada saw them progress to the Cup Final. It was the first time Australia had played Spain since their heartbreaking exit at the Sevens World Cup in Moscow last year.
But this time, a first-half double from Emma Tonegato was enough to see off the Spaniards (12-5). Despite Berta Garcia crossing over early in the second period, the green and gold clung on for victory.
A tough Canadian side – who had beaten Tim Walsh’s side twice in February – were next up. In a tight tussle with neither team giving an inch in what proved a battle of the forwards, it was a moment of class that proved the difference. Exploiting the tightest of gaps on the left edge of the Canadian defence, Emilee Cherry masterfully dissected the hole to score the game’s only points in a 5-0 win.
Winger Amy Turner said: “We have had trouble with Canada over the last year so to beat them and progress to the Cup Final was very satisfying.
“We are now two points behind New Zealand and the girls know if we can work hard over the next month then we can still win the World Series.”
Elsewhere at the Guangzhou Sevens on Sunday, Canada beat Fiji 26-5 in the 3rd/4th Place Play-Off, while England finished fifth after winning the Plate Final against France (19-0).
New Zealand’s Portia Woodman claimed an IRB Women’s Sevens World Series record this weekend, registering 12 tries (60 points) throughout the tournament. Australia’s Emilee Cherry was the tournament’s second top points scorer over the weekend with 42.
New Zealand’s Cup Final victory in China now means they lead the 2013/14 IRB Women’s World Series outright. The final round of the season Series takes place in the Netherlands on the weekend of 16-17 May 2014 at the NRCA Stadium in Amsterdam.
Final placing’s for the Guangzhou Sevens (top 6): 1. New Zealand (20 World Series points), 2. Australia (18 points), 3. Canada (16 points), 4. Russia (14 points), 5. England (12 points), 6. France (10 points)
Current IRB Sevens World Series standings with one round to go (top 6): 1. New Zealand (76 World Series points), 2. Australia (74 points), 3. Canada (64 points), 4. Russia (46 points), 4. England (46 points), 6. Spain (40 points)
Australian Women’s Sevens results and fixtures in Sao Paulo, 5-6 April 2014:
Australia 50-0 Ireland, Pool B
Australia 24-5 Fiji, Pool B
Australia 12-15 England, Pool B
Australia 12-5 Spain, Cup Quarter-Final
Australia 5-0 Canada, Cup Semi-Final
Australia 12–26 New Zealand, Cup Final