rio olympics

Australia, New Zealand remain on course for rugby sevens showdown, but Canada and GB stand in the way

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 7:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 9:53pm

Favourites Australia remained on course for a final showdown with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand after the top four seeded sides safely negotiated the quarter-finals of the women’s rugby sevens at the Olympics on Sunday.

The Wallabies were given an earlier scare in their final pool match, scrambling to a 12-12 draw with the United States at the Deodoro Stadium.

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But they rebounded to comfortably beat Spain 24-0 in their quarter-final to set up a semi-final against Canada, while New Zealand will play Britain in their last-four clash on Monday after edging the ever-improving US team 5-0 in a nervy display.

Try machine Portia Woodman ran in that game’s only try right on the whistle for half-time.

With three minutes to play, Kiwi playmaker Tyla Nathan-Wong was yellow carded for cynically taking out American winger Jessica Javelet with the line abegging.

But the New Zealanders kept their nerve to scrape through.

“We played them in (our training camp) in Florida and we knew what they had,” Kiwi back Kelly Brazier said of the US team.

“In the quarter-finals, it’s a different story, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the top-placed team or worst-placed team it’s always going to be a tough one.

“A win’s a win, 5-0 or 2-0 it doesn’t matter, we’ll take it.”

Brazier added: “We pride ourselves on our defence. We don’t get to play at home very often so we say that we protect the line like it’s our home and it gets the girls up and we’re very happy not to have let them in there at the end.”

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Strike runner Emma Tonegato got Australia up and running against the Spanish, crashing in at the corner after a clever midfield move.

The impressive Charlotte Caslick then racked up a brace either side of half-time, with speedster Ellia Green putting the icing on the cake when she crossed the whitewash on the hooter.

“I’m a little bit sad that in 24 hours it might be all over!” said Caslick. “It’s going to be a physical game in the morning and we really have to bring it.”

Australia’s opponents will be the hard-hitting Canadians, 15-5 winners over France in a tight match.

France’s Jade Le Pesq scored the opening try with an acrobatical dive into the corner, but Kayla Moleschi responded for the Canucks before late tries from Bianca Farella and Ghislaine Landry sealed the win.

New Zealand will play Britain, who saw off Fiji 26-7 thanks to tries from Abbie Brown (2), Alice Richardson and Joanne Watmore.

At the other end of the tournament, Brazil followed up on their maiden Olympic victory, 26-10 over Japan, with a 24-0 win over Latin American rivals Colombia.

Eduardo Mufarej, president of the Brazilian rugby union, told AFP the host team’s performances had done the country proud, with a re-match against Japan on the cards Monday, the winner of which will be awarded a core team place on the World Series Sevens circuit.

“It’s a good moment and has set the base for future development of rugby in Brazil,” said Mufarej, adding that the Deodoro Stadium, which was just under half-full for the second day’s play, was “very well suited for rugby sevens”.

“It’s the first time rugby sevens is being played in the Olympics so it’s always a challenge and there’s a level of excitement about what we’re going to see.”