Title defence off to the perfect start

by Marty Cambridge

The Olympic Champions have picked up where they left off, with a perfect start on day one of the first leg of their World Series title defence.

Battling the heat at the Dubai Sevens, the Australian Women’s Sevens side proved to be too strong for their Pool A opponents but didn’t have it all their own way with tough encounters against Russia and the USA.

Their first match saw them defeat South Africa 38-5, with an Emma Tonegato hat-trick ensuring their tournament defence got off to the perfect start.

Next they took on last year’s Dubai finalists, Russia in what was a much tighter affair, with the Australians down 7-3 just before halftime, before a try to Alicia Quirk ensured they went into the break ahead.

Emma Sykes was impressive in her World Series debut. Photo: Getty ImagesA halftime talking to from coach Tim Walsh was all the motivation the Women needed to go to the next level, scoring two unanswered tries, including the match winner from Quirk, in the second seven minutes to walk away with a hard-fought 20-7 victory, that ensured them a spot in the quarter-finals.

The golden girls final game was against the USA who had split their first two games of the day and would need a win to secure a quarter-final berth of their own.

However, the Aussies put them on the back-foot immediately, as star performer, Emilee Cherry scored from the kick-off with a superb solo effort.

It didn’t take long for the Americans to hit back, crossing with a try of their own as Australia was forced to defend with just five players after Brooke Anderson and Tiana Penitani were injured in the same passage of play.

Play was stopped as they received medical attention, with major concern for Penitani who had to be helped from the field, as the Aussies headed for half-time with a slender 2-point buffer.

The second half saw both sides look to gain control of the match as they searched for an advantage.

It would eventually fall to Mahalia Murphy, who coach Tim Walsh described “went to another level today”, to power her way through the defensive line to seal the 19-10 victory. 

The undefeated start ensured the girls topped Pool A and advance to the knock-out stages where they will take on Spain in a quarter-final at 5:06pm AEDT (10:06am local time). 

Walsh happy to get away with the wins but knows the side will need to improve on day two of competition. 

“We got a bit of a wakeup call against some of those teams that took it to us, which will do us good moving forward into day two,” Walsh said

“France will be extraordinarily tough, the quarter-final makes or breaks your tournament and we’ve had some terrific battles with the French.”

Mahalia Murphy had her best outing in the green and gold. Photo: Getty ImagesOlympic gold medallist, Emilee Cherry echoing the coaches thoughts and also praising some of the fresh faces on day one of competition.

“Anyone in the quarter-final is going to be tough but particularly the French, they’re a really aggressive team and we’ve had some really close games against them in the past couple of seasons,” Cherry said. 

“It was really good to see the younger girls come on and leave their mark on the game, there’s a few girls with not much World Series experience and they played really well and lifted the rest of the team.”

The finals will be broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS 502 from 3:30pm this afternoon.