Sydney Sevens: Unbeaten Aussie girls top pool to reach semis
Photo: J.B Photography
The Australian Women’s Sevens team have sailed into the semi-finals at their home event in Sydney, after topping their pool with three wins from three. The welcome return of Charlotte Caslick was a major boost, the superstar running in five tries and having a hand in plenty more as the hosts saw off Spain, Ireland and France to set up a final four clash with Canada – the side that beat them at the same stage in Hamilton last week. That match kicks-off at 3.36pm AEST on FoxSports.
It didn’t take long for Caslick to re-establish herself in the green and gold, running a clearing kick back with interest to open the scoring against Spain as she jinked her way past three defenders and side-stepped one more to go 70 metres. And she soon had a hand in the second, drifting wide with the ball in both hands to draw in defenders, before offloading for Ellia Green to blast a path to the line in trademark style.
The halfback left a trail of Spaniards in her wake once again before the break, dummying her way through the line and carving a path around the last defender to find the corner. And the Caslick and Green show continued, the two combining for Green to go in again and give the Aussies a handy 26-0 advantage at the halfway point.
The ‘Green Machine’ had her hat-trick inside a minute of the second half, profiting from some slick handling and a final pass from the hardworking Emma Tonegato to race home. Things could have been even worse for Spain considering they lost two girls to the sin bin, but they fronted up in the closing stages to prevent any further damage, and it finished 33-0.
It was a case of ‘as you were’ when the Aussies lined up for their second pool clash against Ireland, with tidy feet from Caslick seeing her carve a path up the middle before offloading for skipper Sharni Williams to run in the opener. And it was the on-fire Caslick who struck next, another swerve or two on display as she left several green jerseys behind to go half the field for her third of the day.
It was 22-0 a minute before the break, Emilee Cherry freeing Dominique Du Toit down the sideline, and the 22-year-old with pace to burn to see off a couple of defenders. And a dominant first half display was capped off by Caslick, Tonegato making a tackle to allow Williams to get over the ball and force a turnover, and she had Caslick outside her for another step and surge for the line.
A terrific win on the floor from Tonegato quelled Ireland’s best attacking phase after the restart, and it wasn’t long before the Aussies were up the other end of the field to strike again. Alicia Lucas carried into traffic and offloaded in the tackle for the industrious Williams to race through, and she had Caslick on her inside for a very popular hat-trick. That was the cue for Ellia Green to take the stage, and she was soon at her demonstrative best, attracting two defenders to open the door for fellow replacement Shannon Parry to run home try number six.
Green was then inexplicably shown yellow for a high shot when replays suggested she actually hit ball and player at chest height. But it didn’t detract from another comprehensive showing from Australia in front of their home crowd, and another donut on the scoreboard for their opposition as they finished Day One in fine form.
Returning to Bankwest Stadium this morning, they faced their toughest hurdle in France – finalists last weekend in Hamilton. It was an intense opening from both sides with the French enjoying most of the possession, and it needed an ankle tap from Tonegato to stop Coralie Bertrand from racing away down the sideline. But a penalty just over three minutes in gave the Aussies the chance to flex their attacking muscles. Caslick shimmied her way across field using decoy runners to keep the Les Bleus defence guessing, but was tagged just as she tried to release the final pass. However, the ball fell kindly for Tonegato to scoop up and race in for the opener.
France looked to hit back but were being smothered by a green and gold wall, and just before half-time Australia constructed a terrific second five-pointer. Working off a lineout they sucked in blue jerseys to one side off the field before going through the hands to the other, for the explosive Green to do what she does best and run in from halfway.
The French were camped on their line a couple of minutes after the restart as Australia looked to apply the choke hold. But an innocent looking clearing kick upfield under pressure turned into a masterstroke, when the bounce eluded Tonegato and Camille Grassineau sent Chloe Pelle all the way to the corner. The fightback continued straight from the restart, replacement Seraphine Okemba pouncing on a loose ball from the kick-off to go in unopposed, and from a position of control the Aussies found themselves with just a 4pt lead and three minutes still remaining.
Sloppy play ensued from the hosts as they struggled to find space in the face of burgeoning French belief. But as the clock ticked down they managed to find enough pressure to force a misplaced pass into the arms of Cherry, and Caslick cleared into the stands to ensure a place in the semi-finals, and a chance for revenge against Canada.
WOMEN’S CUP SEMI-FINAL:
AUSTRALIA v CANADA – 3.36pm AEDT on FOX SPORTS
AUSTRALIA 33 SPAIN 0
Tries: Ellia Green 3, Charlotte Caslick 2
Cons: Ellia Green 3, Sharni Williams
AUSTRALIA 34 IRELAND 0
Tries: Charlotte Caslick 3, Sharni Williams, Dominique Du Toit, Shannon Parry
Cons: Sharni Williams 2
AUSTRALIA 14 FRANCE 10
Tries: Emma Tonegato, Ellia Green
Cons: Sharni Williams, Ellia Green