BIarritz Sevens: Aussies nab Olympic spot, finish fifth in France

Womens - Paris
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia's women have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite missing the semi-finals in Biarritz.

The Aussies only had to win their quarter-final against Spain on Sunday night (AEST) to ensure they stayed in fourth spot in the overall World Series rankings and relegated France to fifth.

A one-point defeat, though, meant they had to wait for the result of the France-Canada quarter-final to determine their fate.

Canada did the job for the Aussies in that final eight match, beating France 12-5.

That finish  meant France cannot bridge the 14-point gap Australia had over them coming into Biarritz and the Aussies will join New Zealand, Canada and the USA as the automatic qualifiers.

USA took out the title in Biarritz, claiming their first Cup with a win over New Zealand in the final.

The Kiwis' second-placed finish was enough for them to secure the overall Series title, reclaiming the gong from Australia.

FINAL STANDINGS

1. New Zealand - 110

2. USA - 100

3. Canada - 94

4. Australia - 86

5. France - 70

6. England - 50

7. Russia - 48

8. Ireland - 41

9. Spain - 36

10. Fiji - 21

11. China - 21

AUSTRALIA vs FRANCE

Australia's women have finished fifth in Biarritz after edging out France 24-10 in their fifth-place final on Monday morning.

The Aussies lost just one game through the French tournament, a quarter-final against Spain, and finished their weekend with that victory, assuring them of a fourth-place finish in the overall World Series rankings.

Emma Tonegato and Charlotte Caslick teamed up for the first try of the match and then things turned into somewhat of a grind.

 France was able to answer in the fifth minute through Anne-Cecile Ciofani, levelling scores up.

Sharni Williams showed some skill, pounding on an opportunity to score a runaway try in the final minute of the opening half.

Jade Le Pesq, though, had the final say of the first half to keep the gap to just two points.

The Aussies' defensive accuracy was poor in the early stages with Australia missing almost half their tackles early, giving France an opportunity to build some pressure.

Australia's defensive work improved as the second half went on but the Aussies still found it hard to break through France's defence.

Persistence paid off for Australia, though, with Ellia Green taking a quick recycle and busting through France's line to score.

Green had her double less than two minutes later, collecting a loose pass and fending off one French opponent to score.

AUSTRALIA vs RUSSIA

The Aussie women will play off for fifth spot in Biarritz after a 31-21 semi-final win over Russia.

Australia was knocked out of the cup competition in the quarter-finals and after a slow start against Russia, managed to eke control of the match.

Russia put the early pressure on the Aussies and they eventually Daria Shestakova found some pay with the opening try.

Australia’s game was littered with uncharacteristic handling errors that ultimately cost them valuable opportunities in attack.

That coupled with Russia’s typically confronting defence made it hard for Australia to settle into a groove.

Emma Tonegato finally found some space in the sixth minute, breaking the Russian line to score Australia’s first.

Evania Pelite had their second right on half-time, as the Aussies made the most of an attacking overlap to score on the right edge and take the lead.

Russia’s Alena Mikhaltsova helped the Russians snatch back the lead in the ninth minute with the first score of the second half.

Pelite stole an instinctive intercept deep in defence and opened up a chance that Ellia Green ultimately finished off to give the Aussies a three-point advantage with three minutes to go.

Tonegato stretched the lead to 10 points with her second in the 12th minute and by the time Pelite chimed in to collect her double, the game was well and truly sealed.

Russia had time for one more score to narrow the gap, through Baizat Khamidova, but there was not enough time for them to whittle down the margin.

The Aussies will take on one of France or China in their fifth place playoff at 1:13am AEST.

AUSTRALIA vs SPAIN

Australia’s women have missed out on the Cup semi-finals in Biarritz  after a 15-14 loss to Spain.

After topping their pool on day one, a quarter-final win was all that was required to cement that top four spot required for automatic Olympic qualification.

Spain disrupted Australia’s attack from the get go with their physicality and they took their opportunities when they presented ,reversing a 31-14 result from the team's pool match on day one.

The Aussies put the early pressure on but an errant pass from Ellia Green opened up an opportunity for Spain to score through Patricia Garcia.

Though Australia made metres in attack, they were also guilty of making uncharacteristic errors that hindered their ability to finish.

Spain’s defence was suffocating as well, limiting the Aussies’ space in the first half.

It took a 90-metre effort from Ellia Green, who picked up a loose pill from a Charlotte Caslick turnover, for Australia to notch their opening try in the sixth minute and against the run of play.

Emma Tonegato broke through early in the second half but again the Spanish defence pushed the Aussies back.

Spain’s physicality rattled Australia and their own errors made for some stuttering attack.

Caslick took matters into her own hands in the ninth minute, putting in a low-percentage grubber kick and backing herself to beat her Spanish opponent.

She did exactly that, toeing the ball forward once more and scoring her fifth of the weekend to give Australia some breathing space.

Spain hit back through LIde Erbina, who slipped out of Tonegato’s grasp, to narrow the margin to just four points with three minutes remaining.

The Spaniards scored another off their next opportunity and took ta one-point lead with Sariah Paki being beaten to a loose  ball over the line by Paula Requena.

Fifth-placed France play Canada in their quarter-final with still a slim chance of stealing the final spot in the top four for an Olympic spot.

Australia moves into the fifth-place draw, set to face the loser of the USA-Russia quarter-final at 10:07pm AEST.

RESULTS

Cup quarter-final

Australia 14 - Spain 15

Fifth-place semi-final

Australia 31- Russia 21

Fifth-place playoff

Australia 24 - France 10