Dubai Sevens: Aussie women fade to fourth after day three losses

Womens - Dubai
by Emma Greenwood

Australia have finished fourth at the Dubai Sevens after losing their final two matches on day three of competition.

After moving through the opening two days unbeaten, the Aussie women set up a semi-final clash against Canada but were knocked out of the tournament after a penalty-laden performance.

The Aussies had been the form team of the tournament but entered the top four untested by the best sides and came undone against a physical Canadian side that was able to control the tempo and flow of the game.

It was the same story in their playoff for third place against the US, the team that beat them in the final in Colorado in October, with the bigger, more physical players shutting down the Australian challenge.

With several of their frontline players unavailable, the Aussies took a young team into Dubai, including 18-year-old debutants Georgia Hannaway and Faith Nathan.

The young guns set the pace on the opening two days of competition, finishing on top of Pool B with a points differential of +104 but the Aussies seemed out of sorts on day three, even in their 21-0 quarter-final shutout of Spain.

 

But against the Canadians - the most capped team in the competition - their inexperience told and they struggled to adjust as the penalty count mounted in the second half.

Canada will go on to meet New Zealand in the women's final, with both finalists from Colorado failing to make the decider in Dubai.

The Aussies finished on top of Pool B, with a points differential of +104 to become one of the favourites for the title.

Teen tyros Georgia Hannaway and Faith Nathan repaid the faith shown in them by coach John Manenti, both settling into the senior international ranks with ease and showing themselves as players of the future.

Olympic spots are on the line in the second round of the Sevens World Series, with Manenti last week naming teens Hannaway and Nathan as part of his side, joining capped 18-year-olds Sariah Paki and Maddison Higgins-Ashby in a young squad full of fresh faces out to stake a claim for a Tokyo Games spot.

 

  

DAY THREE, 12.38am, PLAYOFF FOR THIRD, USA 24 DEF AUSTRALIA

The Aussies suffered a blow ahead of the kick-off, with Emma Tonegato ruled out of the final match, replaced by the experienced Demi Hayes.

On top of the players already missing, it proved a bridge too far for Australia, who struggled to deal with the physicality of the US team.

They scored three tries in the opening half, with Alev Kelter, Cheta Emba and Kristi Kirshe crossing to propel them to a 17-0 halftime lead.

With Tonegato and Charlotte Caslick among those missing, the US was able to target the Aussies' biggest physical threat in Ellia Green and were able to starve them of the ball.

Australia failed to deal well with the US team's physicality in the opening round of the series in Colorado, where both teams reached the final, and while they did not leak as many points in the second half, they were still a level below their rivals.

Jordan Gray-Matyas crossed for the fourth US try early in the second half, with the traffic flowing one way.

But the young guns are fast learners and managed to stem the tide, with debutant Faith Nathan capping a strong tournament with Australia's only try in the 14th minute.

DAY THREE, 9:14pm, SEMI-FINAL, CANADA 26 DEF AUSTRALIA 12

Canada drew first blood after earning a turnover when the Aussies were on the attack early in the match but Australia hit back quickly through Evania Pelite who bumped off several defenders in a run down the left flank to score.

Canada maintained the lead after Australia was unable to convert and extended it further when the Aussies - as Canada had done before them - failed to send their restart the required distance.

Ghislane Landry made the most of the chance, scoring to put Canada ahead 12-5 at the break.

 

Ellia Green put the Aussies back on level terms early in the second half though, getting on the outside of her defender and racing away to score, with Williams slotting the difficult conversion to level the scores at 12-12.

That was the last joy for the Aussies though. The team was heavily penalised at the breakdown for failing to support their bodyweight, with the count 7-1 against them late in the match.

Canada made the most of the glut of possession, scoring through Charity Williams to go ahead after she escaped the clutches of Emma Tonegato, before putting the match beyond doubt when Landry scored her second of the match.

 

4:33pm, QUARTER-FINAL, AUSTRALIA 21 DEF SPAIN 0

Spain lost a player early, with Iera Echebarria sin binned for pushing the ball away and Australia capitalising almost immediately with a try to evergreen Sharni Williams.

The Aussies have been on song with their skills and handling in the opening two days but struggled in the first term, making a number of uncharacteristic errors that led to turnovers and kept Spain in the hunt.

But they had the last say in the term, with Williams finding Emma Tonegato on the switch and the series' leading scorer creating a chance out of nothing to race over for a try seconds from the break that, when converted, gave Australia a 14-0 halftime lead.

 

After a 38-5 win over Spain in the pool stages, the Aussies had been expected to make easy work of their quarter-final rivals.

But the second half was also a grind.

 

 

Tonegato was again in the thick of the action when her stutter step held up the defence, allowing her to put Evania Pelite away down the left flank for what would be the final try of the match.

While not at their best, the Aussies kept a clean sheet and advanced to the semi-finals, where they will face the winner of the match between France and Canada.

DAY TWO, 8.35pm, AUSTRALIA 38 DEF SPAIN 5

The Green Machine was in full flight early, scoring two tries in the opening two minutes of the match.

Green ran on to a pass on the left flank and strode out in space to give the Aussies a 7-0 lead inside the opening minute. And when Spain fumbled the restart, Australia spread the ball quickly, finding Green on a switch line for her second try of the match.

Evania Pelite added another try for the Aussies in sight of the break and Williams looked as though she would add a third after the hooter only for the officials to rule the pass to her forward when she had a clear run to the line.

Spain kept Australia out for much of the second term but the dam wall finally broke, with youth and experience on display as teen Madison Ashby earnt a turnover at the ruck, leading to a try for veteran Sharni Williams.

The Aussies then gave a glimpse of the future, debutants Georgia Hannaway and Faith Nathan combining for a try before Rhiannon Byers crossed for a try to give Australia a 38-0 lead.

They conceded a try in the dying minutes to run out 38-5 winners and finish top of Pool B.

3.35pm, AUSTRALIA 38 DEF IRELAND 5

Australia remains unbeaten in Pool B after beating Ireland in the first of two pool games on day two.

Emma Tonegato continued her try-scoring feats, crossing for the Aussies' first five-pointer after Alicia Lucas made the most of a patient build-up with a telling break.

But when Tonegato and Sharni Williams dropped off a tackle on Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, the Irish star ran away to score her team's first try, with only Evania Pelite's chase preventing the easy conversion.

Ireland threatened again in a first-half arm wrestle but Australia made the most of a penalty after the siren, with Sharni Williams standing in a tackle and finding Tonegato, who stretched the lead to 12-5 at the break.

Coach John Manenti asked his team to show a bit of mongrel in the second half and they responded.

The second seven minutes was one-way traffic early as Australia capitalised on Ireland's mistakes. Sharni Williams, Madison Ashby and Georgia Hannaway all scored to push the lead to 31-5 as Ireland battled to get out of their own half.

And they may have wished they didn't after Ellia Green punished them with back-to-back hits in one of the rare occasions they managed to get into Australia's territory.

The resulting turnover led to another try, this time for Faith Nathan - she and Hannaway continuing their dream debuts as Australia finished with a 38-5 victory. 

AUSTRALIA 38 DEF FIJI 0

Australia have opened their Dubai Sevens campaign with a win but it has not come without a scare, with Ellia Green limping off the field just before halftime.

Green opened the scoring for Australia, racing more than 70m to touch down under the posts after busting through a pair of Fijian defenders.

 

It was her second big play of the game after chasing down a Fijian breakaway to stop a runaway try after a defensive error.

But the flyer was forced from the field just before the break, limping heavily after looking to have taken a knock to the knee.

The Aussies took a 19-0 lead to the break after Emma Tonegato scored a double, including one after the halftime hooter, to set up the victory.

Fiji pushed their rivals early in the second term but were unable to break through to score, the Aussies' defensive line holding impressively and their patience forcing an error that handed them possession they quickly turned into another score.

Sharni Williams finished off a Cassie Staples break with a  sublime dummy to extend the lead to 25-0 before teen debutants Georgia Hannaway and Faith Nathan showed why they are regarded as the future of the sport.

Hannaway scored with her first attacking touch of the game, stepping off her left foot to bamboozle the Fijian defence before racing to the line, while Nathan carried a tackler across the line to score in the corner as the Aussies raced away with the game.

SCHEDULE

Saturday

Australia vs Ireland, 4:22pm AEDT

Australia vs Spain, 9:34pm AEDT

AUSTRALIA SQUAD FOR DUBAI

1. Shannon Parry, University of Sydney, Queensland, 26 caps

2. Sharni Williams (c), University of Canberra, Canberra, 31 caps

3. Sariah Paki, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, 6 caps

4. Cassandra Staples, University of Queensland, NSW, 8 caps

5. Emma Tonegato, University of Western Australia, NSW, 26 caps

6. Evania Pelite, University of Adelaide, Queensland, 25 caps

7. Georgia Hannaway*, University of Queensland, Queensland

8. Madison Ashby, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, 1 cap

9. Faith Nathan*, University of Technology Sydney, NSW

10. Alicia Lucas, University of New England, NSW, 30 caps

11. Rhiannon Byers, University of New England, NSW, 2 caps

12. Ellia Green, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 26 caps

*Denotes uncapped