Sevens: Aussies fall to US in final of World Series opener in Glendale

Womens - Colorado
by Emma Greenwood

Australia have missed the chance to break their Sevens World Series drought, falling to the US 26-7 in the final of the Glendale Sevens in Colorado.

Looking to hoist their first Cup trophy since taking out their home event in Sydney more than 18 months ago, the Aussies were unable to match the home side, falling behind 12-7 at halftime after conceding a try after the buzzer and conceding another two tries in the second half as the US swarmed to win their home title.

Despite the loss, the return to the Cup final is a strong start to the Aussies' Olympic gold medal defence in Tokyo next year and comes after earlier shut outs of Russia and France in the knockout stages on Monday morning.

Cassie Staples in action in Australia's win against Spain. Photo: World Rugby

Apart from a minor glitch in their final pool game against Canada, in which they allowed a try after the fulltime siren to finish with a draw, the Australians dominated in Colorado until the final, leading many statistical categories over the two days.

Australia was flawless through the early knockouts on Monday morning, beating Russia 38-0 in the quarter-final before dismantling France 40-0 in their semi.

Charlotte Caslick has returned to full form after an injury-disrupted early part of the year, while Emma Tonegato topped the try-scoring list.

In the bronze medal playoff, New Zealand beat France 31-14 to claim third place.

Sharni Williams (left) and Charlotte Caslick celebrate after their semi-final win. Photo: World Rugby

FINAL - AUSTRALIA vs USA

Australia conceded a ruck penalty in the opening seconds and while they defended their line well, but Alev Kelter was able to bust through the tackle of Evania Pelite close to the line to give the home side a 7-0 lead.

Charlotte Caslick has been at her playmaking best this tournament and she again sparked the attack, winning a penalty before the Aussies switched the attack and found Green, who danced her way around the defence and ran in to level the scores.

The rest of the half was an arm wrestle, with the Aussies looking to have the final say after winning lineout ball but conceding a turnover after the hooter, with the US taking full advantage and scoring a try through Ilona Maher to take a 12-7 lead to the break.

 

They continued their run in the second half, storming away from Australia, who struggled to deal with their opponents' physical play at the breakdown and swarming defence.

Little went right for the Aussies in the second half and they were unable to add to their own score, while the home side added another pair of tries to Nicole Heavirland to seal a 26-7 win.

Caslick was named the impact player of the tournament though after a successful weekend, while she and Tonegato were named in the tournament dream team.

 

RESULT

USA 26

Tries: Heavirland 2, Kelter, Maher

Cons: Kelter 2, Heavirland

AUSTRALIA 7

Tries: Green

Cons: Williams

SEMI-FINAL - AUSTRALIA vs FRANCE

Australia started poorly, with their kick-off failing to make the 10m, allowing France to go on the attack from the start.

And it was only some desperate defence that prevented them from scoring early, the Aussies bustling the French player into touch to win back the ball.

They made the most of it too, with Ellia Green racing around the outside of the defence and beating the French for pace.

 

It kick-started an amazing first-half effort from the Australians, who raced to a 21-0 lead at the break after Charlotte Caslick and Green added tries.

They continued in the same vein in the second half, a Tonegato double in the opening minutes sealing the win, before they brought on the bench and turned on the razzle dazzle.

Lauren Brown touched down to complete some great lead-up work from Evania Pelite, while debutant Madison Ashby also played a key role in the closing stages.

 

Tonegato, who rocketed to the top of the try-scoring list with her double, said her individual efforts meant little, with her focus on the team results.

"I think we started off well yesterday and carried that through," Tonegato said.

We were really excited to keep them to zero - defence wins games, so we're happy with that."

Ellia Green scores against France in the semi-final. Photo: World Rugby

RESULT

AUSTRALIA 40

Tries: Green 2, Tonegato 2, Caslick, Brown

Cons: Williams 3, Green, Brown

FRANCE 0

QUARTER-FINAL - AUSTRALIA vs RUSSIA

Emma Tonegato added another to her growing list of tries to get the Aussies off to a great start but her effort capped a magnificent team try sparked by a Charlotte Caslick line break, before the ball went to Cassie Staples and Ellia Green and while the Russian defence caught the speedster, the Australian support was on hand to ensure the movement did not break down, with Tonegato eventually touching down for a 5-0 lead.

She was in again three minutes later, racing through a gap to show her individual skill, while Ellia Green and Evania Pelite then interchanged passes to bamboozle the Russian defence, with Green left in space after getting the ball from Pelite as she took the tackle.

 

Up 19-0 at the break, the Aussies continued their dominace in the second term, with Cassie Staples crossing in the eighth minute - crawling across the line after some desperate Russian defence attempted to halt her progress.

After a raft of handling errors briefly stopped the scoring run, Australia resumed their run, Caslick crossing after starting a move from the breakdown and receiving the ball back from Sharni Williams to challenge Tonegtao as the tournament's scoring leader.

 

Staples notched her double in the dying stages to cap the Aussies' win, splitting the defence, throwing a dummy and racing to the line to seal her team's passage to the final four.

RESULT

AUSTRALIA 38

Tries: Tonegato 2, Staples 2, Green, Caslick

Cons: Williams 2, Green, Brown

RUSSIA 0