Dubai: Spain were gritty, Australia were methodical, while New Zealand started their title defence on the best of notes as three of the favourites pulled off wins in the Dubai Sevens women’s competition on the opening day of the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday.
In arrears 10-5 until the final 17 seconds, Spain pulled themselves out for a 12-10 last-gasp win against Ireland, while Olympic champions Australia showed true intent with a 38-0 thrashing of Fiji with five different players coming away with tries. New Zealand came in later to saunter away with a 48-0 mauling over a hapless Olympic hosts Japan for an ideal start to their title defence.
Leading 29-0 at half-time with a couple of tries from Stacey Waaka and one each from Kelly Brazier, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Shakira Baker, New Zealand eased down on the pressure in the second half to emerge easy victors. Sevens player of the world Ruby Tui got the score moving early in the second as the Black Ferns looked unstoppable in the end.
“Really happy with the strong start here. It’s the first day and we needed to make a statement,” skipper Tyla Nathan-Wong told Gulf News.
“We’ve got another two tough games [against England and France] and only then we can think ahead. Right now, the emphasis will be on recovery, rest and analyse the other game so that we come in tomorrow win the right frame of mind,” she added.
New Zealand is one of the teams who have already booked their place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Yes, it is a bit of pressure coming into Dubai trying to defend a title. No team has won back-to-back, but we will be doing everything to ensure we are there on Sunday evening,” she smiled.
Spain sprung the biggest surprise of the opening day with a last-gasp 12-10 win over Ireland. The Irish were off to a great start with tries from Eve Higgins and Kathy Baker giving them a 10-0 early advantage. But the Spaniards just stuck in and bagged a try each from Patricia and Maria Garcia along with a conversion on the final second to ease through.
“We’ve started well and now we need to keep on improving over the next two days especially in the attack,” Maria Garcia said.
“We just stuck in there, and I think that’s the quotient of a true team. We needed to fight till the end and finally it all paid off,” she added.
Chloe Pelle, who was instrumental in the France’s 29-0 victory hoped to see her side improving over the next couple of days. “I think we did everything pretty well out there,” she said.
“We are happy with the start here, but it’s going to be a long season for us with the Olympic qualifiers coming up [in Beirut, Lebanon]. We had lost to England in the previous qualifiers, so the feeling at winning is good at the moment,” she added.
Spain 12 Ireland 10
Australia 38 Fiji 0
Canada 24 Russia 19
USA 29 Brazil 7
France 29 England 0
New Zealand 48 Japan 0