Biarritz 7s Day One: Aussie girls on track after unblemished opening
The Australian Women’s Sevens team have won their way through to another Cup Quarter-Final, with an unbeaten day one at the final tournament of the World Series in Biarritz, France.
Wins over Ireland (27-5), Spain (31-14), and Canada (27-14), saw them finish top of Pool B, and earn another meeting with the Spaniards in the last eight, to be played at 7pm AEST this evening. As well as competing for what would be a first Series win of the season, they are playing for the crucial points that would ensure a top four finish and automatic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Veteran Shannon Parry returned from injury to compete in her first tournament since the opening round in the USA, and gave her usually high standard of performance. While the trusted quartet of Charlotte Caslick, Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite and Ellia Green, came up with the goods in the try-scoring stakes yet again, crossing the chalk 13 times between them.
“It was a great effort by the squad today to make the quarter finals against strong opposition,” said a justifiably proud head coach John Manenti. “Spain, Ireland and Canada all highlighted different challenges, but the team stood up well to them to ensure progression.
“Emma Tonegato, Charlotte Caslick and Evania Pelite had strong performances today and it was great to see Shannon back out on the park. We have a big day two tomorrow and the job is nowhere near done. We are focused on the task at hand, and looking forward to the hard work coming at us for the last day of this year’s season.”
The Aussie girls got off to a flyer against Ireland in their first clash of the day, Evania Pelite pouncing off a penalty to free Emma Tonegato, and she takes some stopping with the line in sight. And Tonegato was almost in again shortly after, only for Irish try-machine Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe to showcase her defensive skills to prevent another score.
However, Australia recycled for Lily Dick, who fired a beautiful long pass out wide for the waiting Pelite to grab her first of the tournament for a 12-0 lead. It was 17-0 by half-time, Ireland struggling to cope with the pace of Australia’s ball movement, and Pelite putting the ever-willing Tonegato away down the flank for her second.
Ireland tried to muster a response after the restart, Murphy Crowe doing her best to add to her sizeable tally but coming up short against the alert Charlotte Caslick. But a quick-tap penalty finally caught the Aussies napping, and Stacey Flood was on hand to get her side on the board.
The fightback was short-lived, Australia regrouping to produce the try of the match within a couple of minutes. Lauren Brown broke the Irish line and fed Pelite out wide, and Caslick came into to lend a hand before the ball found it’s way into the hands of the dynamic Ellia Green, who cut back inside and scorched her way over for another.
The icing on top of a commanding display was added by Pelite, who had featured in most of the good things her team had put together, and she was on hand to finish off a quick-tap for her second, and rubbers stamp a 27-5 victory.
Next up were Spain, who upset the applecart early doors with the first score, Maria Losada benefitting from a superb cut-out pass from Patricia Garcia to run home. But Australia were unfazed and carved out a riposte within a minute, smart Sevens footy working the space to create a three-on-one, and Sariah Paki on the end of the line to finish it off.
That was the spark that ignited the Aussies attacking flame, the irrepressible Tonegato going in off a similar move on the opposite flank, before Sam Treherne showcased her skill-set to pounce on a loose ball, grubber it ahead twice, and get the benefit of a favourable bounce to dot down a third.
Treherne’s conversion opened up a healthy 17-7 lead at the break, after brilliant work from Paki thwarted a certain try for the Spaniards. But they weren’t going to die wondering in this one, and they did hit back after the restart when a dummy by Anne Fernández De Corres wrong-footed Shannon Parry, and earned her a run to the line.
With just a three-point lead and Spain’s confidence growing, Australia needed to score next. And was it any surprise that it was Tonegato again who stepped up when needed, cutting inside off her right foot to forge a path through the defence and away for a 24-14 advantage.
Spain thought they were in again with a couple of minutes to go, only for some tidy passing through midfield to be cruelled by a forward pass. And it proved to be their last opportunity, Caslick scything her way from one side of the field to the other to dissect the line and seal the deal 31-14.
With all due respect to both Ireland and Spain, it was the final clash of the day against Canada that was earmarked as the most pivotal for Australia when the draw was made. Not only in terms of where they would finish in the Pool, but also the World Series as a whole, with the Canucks sitting one place above them in 3rd on the overall ladder before kick-off.
But again, they were forced to play catch-up when a lively Canada opened the scoring, the electric finishing prowess of Bianca Farella to the fore as she latched onto a pass from Ghislaine Landry to stride through.
It wouldn’t be a day of Aussie Women’s Sevens footy without mention of a monster hit from Ellia Green, but she pulled off two in the first half on the same unfortunate opponent, Kayla Moleschi. And not only did the second tackle lead to a turnover, it also kick-started a break upfield that ended with Caslick racing away for a try.
The co-captain had her team up by the break, some terrific support play seeing her combine with Pelite, Tonegato and Alicia Quirk, before backing up to take Quirk’s offload to claim a double. And she had her hat-trick in the opening minute of the second stanza, tournament debutant Rhiannon Byers making some serious metres and Caslick fighting hard in contact to claw her way over the chalk and make it 17-7.
After her trademark defensive efforts, Ellia Green then clicked into gear at the other end of the field to extend the advantage. Given too much time and space on the flank, she burned her way past two defenders to take the game away from a Canadian team that were struggling to contain an Australian outfit that were now firing on all cylinders
The Canucks did get one back, the searing pace of Charity Williams too hot to handle with a minute left on the clock. But there was still time for Green to strike the knockout blow, running away down the right wing to outpace the chasing defence and confirm top spot in the Pool, and due to the vagaries of the draw, the favourable prospect of a return match against Spain for a place in the semi-finals.
WOMEN’S CUP QUARTER-FINAL:
AUSTRALIA v SPAIN – 7pm AEDT, Sunday 16th June on FoxSports
AUSTRALIA 27 IRELAND 5
Tries: Emma Tonegato 2, Evania Pelite 2, Ellia Green
Cons: Samantha Treherne
AUSTRALIA 31 SPAIN 14
Tries: Emma Tonegato 2, Sariah Paki, Sam Treherne, Charlotte Caslick
Cons: Lauren Brown 2, Sam Treherne
AUSTRALIA 27 CANADA 14
Tries: Charlotte Caslick 3, Ellia Green 2
Cons: Sam Treherne