New Zealand have been crowned Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 champions after a 29-12 win over Canada in a final played in wet conditions at the Lizhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The New Zealanders now hold both World Cup titles – in Fifteens and Sevens – and also won the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series after victories in three of the four rounds in 2012/13.
The World Series champions had been in imperious form again on day two, comfortably beating England 24-7 in the quarter-finals and then coming through strongly 19-10 against USA.
Portia Woodman gave them the perfect start to the final by going under the posts and Kelly Brazier followed soon after for a 12-0 lead early on. Canada hit back through Arielle Dubissette-Borrice but Honey Hireme ensured New Zealand lead 17-5 at half-time.
However, it was game on when the impressive Ghislaine Landry reached over and converted her own try. Playing in their first World Cup final, Canada needed to score next but they didn’t with Woodman and then Kayla McAlister touching down to ensure New Zealand could celebrate come the final whistle.
Woodman’s double in the final meant she finished the tournament with 12 tries, easily beating the previous benchmark of nine tries set by compatriot Carla Hohepa in 2009 when New Zealand lost the final in extra time to Australia.
It had been a good tournament for Canada up to that point with wins over hosts Russia and Spain, thanks in part to two superb games from Landry who racked up a brace of tries in both games and made some huge tackles, including one on Russia’s Baizat Khamidova who was heading for a try that would have but her side two scores ahead.
The USA did superbly well to finish 3rd, beating Spain 10-5 in OT in Vix Folayan’s long run. The Eagles lost only one match, to the eventual champions.
“We are really excited,” said USA captain Vanesha McGee. “We wanted to be in the final but third place feels really good. We play in rain sometimes from other tournaments but it was very slippery and the ball was pretty loose. Third place is huge for us. We are building for Rio and hopefully this will give us a good platform for that.”
USA head Coach Ric Suggitt was disappointed with the loss to New Zealand in the semis, but was philosophical.
“The girls showed their courage and I am really proud of them,” he said after that game. “New Zealand are a team to beat, they are incredibly skilled so credit to them. We lost a bit of our composure early on but in the second half we took it to them. We will go home and rest up – they will get three weeks off to recover and we will start to build for what is going to be a fantastic season next year that the IRB are putting together for us.”
Meanwhile, Canada may have wanted a championship, but will realize in time that 2nd place isn’t bad, either.
“It is the first time any Canadian side has reached a final,” said Canada captain Jen Kish. “I am so proud of my team – we gave it everything. It shows how much rugby is growing in our country. We would not be considered a rugby nation and now we are because we compete with the other big rugby nations. We had no easy games today and every game felt like a final. New Zealand capitalized on our mistakes. They are a world class team. Next year we are going to centralize again for our 7s program but we have to look ahead to the [15s] World Cup in 2014.”
Australia, meanwhile, won the Plate competition by beating England 14-5 in the final with captain Sharni Williams in inspired form, scoring a last gasp try to make certain of victory and making countless tackles as she led from the front.
It was some consolation for the defending champions were who left ruing a last-minute error against Spain in the quarter-finals earlier in day, conceding a try at the death having thought the game was over.
They had to come from behind in Plate semi-final, Williams winning it for them in the dying seconds to give them a shot at returning home with some form of silverware.
Sixth place will be a real disappointment for England, who misfired badly in a competition they were strongly fancied to win and had made no secret was their major focus for the year.
England were comfortably 24-5 beaten by World Series champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals, but were in much better form to beat Ireland 22-0 with Jo Watmore scoring the pick of the tries.
In the Bowl competition, Fiji continued to showcase their rapid improvement with a 12-10 win over a much more experienced Netherlands side in the final. Timoci Wainiqilo’s side showed great skills all weekend and they will certainly be a side to look out for in the future.
The loss ended a disappointing weekend for the Netherlands, who as well as finishing 12th overall also lost their core status for the 2013/14 World Series despite the outstanding efforts of their leading player Kelly van Harskamp.
Fiji had reached the final with a super win over South Africa, while the Netherlands had dispatched China. Earlier in the Bowl competition Tunisia had earlier scored their first try of the tournament against France and the North African side will have learned plenty from their first ever World Cup experience.
(Submitted in part by IRB)