For the Australian Women’s Sevens team it was another tournament on the edge of a desert and another defeat at the hands of an all too familiar foe.
The New Zealand Black Ferns won the World Rugby Sevens USA title in Las Vegas on Sunday, defeating the Aussies in convincing style, 28-5 in the Cup Final.
Australia went to this third round of the World Series with three key objectives - retain the USA Sevens title, put Sydney behind them and get their 2016 form back on track in 2017.
Well, two out of three is not bad although this team will never concede that point.
Despite not securing the final prize, the Aussies’ performance across the weekend was impressive with the first day results highlighted by a try scoring fest and some solid performances.
Aussie coach Tim Walsh praised the performance of the Kiwis.
“Credit to New Zealand. They played a very detailed and almost mistake free game,” he said.
Despite the loss Walsh underlined his satisfaction with where the Australian team is overall at this mid-point of the series.
“It was a step up for us – we didn’t play well in Dubai and we certainly didn’t play well in Sydney,” Walsh added.
“Destiny is still in our own hands - we have an overall plan for this season and for building some depth. So we’ll see how the players pull up with injuries and fatigue and look at how we approach the next couple of tournaments.” - Tim Walsh
The Aussies scored prolifically across the two days in their victories, with the only losses suffered being those to New Zealand.
So how did the final day unfold?
In a rematch of its Sydney Sevens quarter final, the Aussies faced Fijiana in what was an expected and all too familiar physical contest from the outset.
Despite Fiji drawing first blood, the Aussies kicked into gear before the break with a try each from Emma Tonegato and Emilee Cherry.
Cherry had in fact been something of a try scoring machine on the first day racking up a total of six.
The pair repeated the same dose in the second half taking Australia to a convincing win in the end, 22-7.
Booking a place in the semis with that victory became another case of déjà vu as Canada too had won its quarter final over France 33-0.
Another epic battle unfolded between the Aussies and the Canadians to see which of these two teams would get a chance at the big prize this time.
Despite Canada opening the scoring, Green and Tonegato finished with two tries a piece compared to Canada’s three singles, and Australia won 26-17 and turned the Sydney tables.
New Zealand had the same reversal of fortune in its semi-final against the USA which was a tight affair, ending 12-7.
Having earlier dispatched Russia in their quarter-final 26-5, New Zealand faced much more resistance against the hosts.
It was the second close match of the day for the USA as its quarter-final win over an enthusiastic and determined Ireland, proved more testing than the 20-12 score suggested.
For Australia, this season has been about continuing to find success off the back of the momentum created through its strong performance in 2016.
Walsh believes that while winning is his preference, signs of good performance are more important no matter what the result.
“You can look at results and we are obviously out there to win everything. Sometimes you play badly and win and sometimes you play well but lose. I thought we had a much better tournament.” - Tim Walsh.
Highlights for Australia over the weekend in Las Vegas had to come from the try scoring endeavours of key players.
Emilee Cherry was on fire on the first day racking up six tries in three matches and adding a double to her total on the final day. The eight tries she finished with have taken her career total to 97 and all eyes will be on Japan in Round Four to see if she cracks the ton.
Emma Tonegato and Ellia Green did not hold back either in looking for the line both finishing with five tries a piece.
As for other performances, questions will be asked about the state of the England Women’s team which has now twice failed to reach the top eight after day one and finds itself in unfamiliar territory in the World Series standings more than 30 points adrift of the top team.
Fiji however has chalked up its third fifth placing and consolidated its ranking at four, becoming more of a threat to the top three with each tournament.
All eyes now move to Japan and another attempt at glory in late April, as the season starts its homeward run.
Australian Women’s Sevens day two results
Quarter Final: Australia 22-7 Fiji
Semi Final: Australia 26-17 Canada
Final: Australia 5-28 New Zealand
Women's World Rugby Sevens Series Standings (after three rounds):
1. New Zealand (56 points)
2. Australia (50 points)
3. Canada (46 points)
4. Fiji (36 points)
5. Russia (34 points)
6. USA (34 points)
7. France (26 points)
8. England (20 points)