Sydney Sevens: Unbreached golden girls set up trans-Tasman final
Photo: J.B Photography
Australia’s golden girls were the hottest ticket in town for the second day in a row at the Sydney Sevens yesterday, brushing aside Spain (29-0) and Russia (31-0) on their way to another Cup Final showdown with arch-rivals New Zealand this afternoon.
Their record of five wins from five games is further enhanced by the fact that they are yet to concede a single point, racking up an impressive 182 points and 29 tries at the other end while their outstanding defence has held firm. And it was that defensive effort that had coach Tim Walsh purring.
“The desire, the attitude, whatever it is, the girls have certainly had it this weekend and I say defence is 80 per cent desire,” he said. “What’s the most pleasing thing is they’re effective tackles, not just scrappy half tackles, they’re good tackles, which has enabled us to hit that ruck and get forced turnovers.”
Charlotte Caslick has again been a standout, the halfback guiding her team around the park in style and bagging seven tries whilst pulling off some trademark hits and scramble tackles. And she has been ably supported by the hardworking Evania Pelite, Sharni Williams and Alicia Quirk, and the finishing prowess of Ellia Green and Emma Tonegato.
But if the Aussies are to claim their second straight title on the 2018 World Sevens circuit, and their first in Sydney, they will need to gain revenge over the current world champions, and the side that beat them in the 2016 decider.
New Zealand also come into the game with an unblemished record, and with the leading try scorer in the tournament Portia Woodman looking to add to her tally of 13. The Black Ferns 26-0 dismantling of Canada in the semi-final was perhaps the performance of the day, and an indication of the task ahead for the hosts when they take the field at Allianz Stadium at 2.37pm.
For coach Walsh, it’s a chance to not only claim some more silverware and vital series points, but to also turn it on in front of a loyal and passionate home crowd that are making the Sydney Sevens one of the must-see events on the circuit.
“It’s a pretty special thing to be able to be part of and to see it grow and we’d like to perform for ourselves first but then be nice to show and put on some entertainment for the people that have supported us all the way through.”
But before the ladies get to play out their grand final, the trans-Tasman theme will be kick-started a couple of hours earlier when the Aussie men also come up against New Zealand in their Cup Quarter-Final at 12.12pm, after finishing off their own impressive pool qualification.
Having just about ousted USA 26-19 in their opening match the previous evening, they put Canada to the sword 26-5 early on day two thanks to a double from skipper Lewis Holland. But despite scoring in the first 60 seconds in their final clash with Scotland through Jesse Parahi, they were made to work hard to maintain their unbeaten run, a runaway Tom Lucas try turning things around late on to ensure a 24-21 victory.
With Boyd Killingworth at his combative best and John Porch (three tries) a potent threat with ball in hand, the Australians look well-placed to go deep into their home tournament if they can see off a kiwi outfit that were looking in imperious form until they went down 19-17 to Fiji in their final pool match.
Coach Andy Friend was understandably pleased to top the group without losing a game, but was realistic about the progress needed if his charges are to achieve something special this evening.
“Our highs were very high, I thought there was some really good rugby played, but our lows, we were just ill-disciplined at the wrong times and made some really poor decisions defensively I thought, which tomorrow (Sunday) you come into quarter-final days and it’s going to hurt you.
“We’re three from three, we must be happy with that, we are happy with that but we’re going to have to tidy up a few areas for tomorrow,” he continued. “All games we’ve had to fight down to the wire and we did that at the end of the day, so that will hold us in good stead.”
The other Cup Quarter-Finals will see Fiji take on the USA, South Africa against Kenya, and the fast-improving Argentina up against England.