Fijiana to face Australia in Cape Town 7s

The Fiji Airways Fijiana team . Piture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU/FILE

NEW ZEALAND, France and Australia head into the Cup quarter-finals of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens 2019 as pool winners after some tough battles on day two at Cape Town Stadium.

It was a case of third time lucky for Olympic champions Australia against USA at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens on Saturday, a 19-14 victory in their Pool C decider the first time they have beaten the Women’s Sevens Eagles this season.

USA had come out on top in the Glendale Cup final (26-7) and then the bronze final in Dubai last weekend (24-7), but Emma Tonegato’s try proved the difference at Cape Town Stadium.

Australia’s reward is a Cup quarter-final with Pool A runners-up Fiji, while USA face another tussle for North American pride with Canada having beaten their neighbours in both Glendale and Dubai.

France finished top of Pool B after avenging their quarter-final loss to Canada in Dubai with a hard-fought 14-12 victory, a missed conversion by Ghislaine Landry proving the difference between the teams. France will play Russia, the best third-placed team, in the first of the Cup quarter-finals at 09:50 local time (GMT+2) on Sunday.

The remaining Cup quarter-final pits New Zealand against England, who edged Spain for the remaining spot. The Black Ferns Sevens certainly didn’t have things all their own way on day two and had to dig deep to beat Fiji and Russia.

The play-offs for ninth-12th place will follow later in the day with Brazil facing Ireland for 11th at 13:11 before Spain tackle invitational side South Africa for ninth.

POOL A

South Africa enjoyed a dream start against Russia, quick ball creating space out wide for Liske Lategan to have the honour of scoring their first try on home soil. Russia, beaten 38-19 by Fiji on day one, weren’t behind for long with captain Alena Mikhaltsova first brushing off a weak tackle to race away before Elena Zdrokova and Baizat Khamidova dotted down for a 19-5 lead at half-time. A strong run from Nadine Roos resulted in a try for Megh Phillips, but Russia finished strongly for a 31-12 victory.

A repeat of their Cup quarter-final in Dubai last weekend, it was Fiji who struck first as they continued their good form to work Viniana Riwai over for the opening try. The Black Ferns Sevens made a number of uncharacteristic handling errors in the first half against a physical Fiji outfit who really should have had more points on the board by the time Gayle Broughton scored with the clock in red. Stacey Waaka increased New Zealand’s lead but Asinate Savu, sin-binned just before Broughton’s try for a late tackle, went over to ensure a nervous finish. However, they couldn’t pull off their first ever win over New Zealand, the series leaders relieved to escape 12-10.

Fiji knew victory over South Africa would secure a second successive Cup quarter-final appearance and three first-half tries put them firmly in control against the host nation. The Imbokodo continued to impress in their first series event for two years, Roos scoring their second try of the weekend before Vasiti Solikoviti’s second in the match wrapped up a 27-5 win.

The final pool match did not yield a point in the first half as New Zealand and Russia failed to make the breakthrough after Stacey Waaka was adjudged by referee Joy Neville to have made a double movement in grounding the ball. Alena Saili finally broke the deadlock a minute into the second half with Gayle Broughton also crossing for a 12-0 victory.

POOL B

Chloé Pelle raced away to score France’s opening try against Brazil, although only after the TMO confirmed she’d managed to regain the ball after losing control of it just before touching down, and Les Bleues pulled clear of Brazil with further first-half tries by Séraphine Okemba (2) and Coralie Bertrand for a 26-0 lead. Okemba could have had her second hat-trick in Cape Town but couldn’t gather a tricky pass, but it didn’t stop France with Lina Guerin scoring a brace in a dominant 45-0 victory.

Captain Ghislaine Landry gave Canada the perfect start against Spain, only for a pinpoint pass to allow Eva Aguirre to slice through the defence to tie the scores midway through the first half. A turnover at the breakdown saw Landry race away for her second try just before the break, while two tries for Bianca Farella in her record-equalling 36th series tournament saw her edge closer to the 150 series tries milestone and Canada run out 28-7 winners over Las Leonas.

Spain knew they needed a big win over Brazil to keep them in the hunt for a fifth successive Cup quarter-final appearance, but instead trailed 14-5 at half-time after tries by Thalia Costa and Isadora Cerullo. Las Leonas, though, regrouped and scored four tries, the last through captain Barbara Pla with the final play.

France had lost to Canada in the quarter-finals last weekend, but Bertrand put them ahead with only 39 seconds on the clock and Okemba then added her sixth of the tournament in added time for a 14-0 lead. Brittany Benn scored the weekend’s 200th try before Charity Williams scored to cut the deficit to two. Canada did have a chance to snatch victory, but in the wet conditions Landry dropped the ball to mean France topped the pool.

POOL C

Tonegato scored twice for Australia in the day’s opening match, the first – the 100th try in Cape Town this year – set up for her by Shannon Parry’s burst and the second an easy run in after Ireland’s defence opened in front of her. Cassie Staples scored in between for a 19-0 lead at half-time and with Ireland unable to do anything with their possession, a first series try for Jakiya Whitfield wrapped up a 24-0 victory, their 15th in a row against the Irish.

USA also started brightly with Alev Kelter scoring their first try against England. The Glendale winners were unable to add to that score in the first half and had Kristi Kirshe’s strength to thank for their second try, managing to turn and ground the ball despite a great chase by Celia Quansah. Naya Tapper added a third for 21-0 before Deborah Fleming rounded Kirshe to become the first to score against the USA in Cape Town late on.

England needed sudden-death extra-time to see off Ireland in the ninth place play-off in Dubai last weekend, but had no such problems this time around, Quansah scoring two early tries in a commanding 36-7 victory with the only response from a tired-looking Irish side a try from Eve Higgins.

USA had twice beaten Australia this season, but it was the Olympic champions who established a 14-0 lead inside four minutes thanks to Ellia Green’s 128th series try – equalling Emilee Cherry’s record for Australia – and captain Sharni Williams. Kelter and Lauren Doyle scored to tie the scores, but Tonegato gave Australia the lead again in final minute. However, USA had one last chance and worked the ball wide to Cheta Emba who, in wet conditions, dropped the ball to allow Australia to celebrate the win.

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