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Amsterdam Sevens: Day 1 review

Live from the touchline at Amsterdam on Day One of the fifth leg of the 2013-14 WSWS.

 

The opening round of games here in Amsterdam went pretty much as expected.

Australia were on a different level to France in the the opening game to kick things off. France had their moments, with Ladagnous always dangerous, but lacked the speed, positioning and sheer nous to challenge the Australian, who took the game 24-5.

Russia similarly dominated the opening phases against South Africa, who were 10-0 down almost before they had touched the ball (or made a tackle). The African champions did recover and end well, but overall Russia were - again - too strong and too experienced at this level.

It has been interesting to see the "other" Khamidova in action - more powerful but not has quick as her sister, she is one of the players that Pavel Baronovsky has brought in for this tournament to "have a look at" with next season in mind.

New Zealand then followed this up with a rugby lesson for the young United States team - it was significant that the only US score came from Vic Folyan - their most experienced player on the field. At times it seemed that the Ferns needed only to gain possession in order to score, with the 43-7 winning margin fully deserved.

Spain were up next against Ireland. Initially this too looked like going to form, with Berta Garcia opening the scores under the posts soon after the start following the breakdown of a promising Irish move - a trick she repeated at the end of the half.

However, the Irish did not give up and Martina McCarthy exploded from the blocks in the second half. Running round the Spanish defence on the left wing she suddenly found room to run. One of her first efforts resulted in a try for Katie Fitzhenry, and she looked away herself a few minutes later but for a superb try-saving tackle from Laura Esbri. Then, in the final minute she did break through,scoring a try that - when converted - put Ireland ahead with just the restart to defend.

However, Spain just managed to gather the ball, and Berta Garcia - with Patricia Garcia on her shoulder - broke the Irish line to score a dramatic winner. Relief for Spain, heartbreak for Ireland.

Next up were Canada - and we were back to form as they completed a regulation 28-0 win over Brazil.

Finally the home team took the stage against Englandand and it took them just 22 seconds to disappoint the home crowd with Danielle Waterman scoring in the corner. Michaela Staniford followed, but then Dutch hopes were lifted as van Harskamp broke away to set up Pien Selbeck to score.

That was, however, the end of the Dutch fightback. For the second period - despite probably having most of the possession - Netherlands simply could not break out of the left corner of their own half. Excellent English defence absorbed everything the Dutch threw at them, before turning the ball over and scoring. Twice. Final score - 36-5.

And so... England, New Zealand, Canada and Australia looked the most dangerous teams so far - indeed a level above the rest. Spain and Russia also won, but not as convincingly. Of the rest Ireland were the standout team and - on this form - should make the final eight, but they have to repeat it. For the other five - well, the day has a long way to go.

Round two began with Australia continuing to look superb as they ran out 29-7 winners over South Africa. In some ways the score did not reflect the game, as South Africa had plenty of possession - but they made mistakes, and just about every time they did Australia scored. On the other hand Australia made practically no mistakes at all.

There then followed an excellent game between France and Russia. After their first round games it was expected to be close, and it was - France coming back to win 10-7.

A brave Irish first-half performance looked like at l east slowing down the Black Fern juggernaut, but not for long as they dominated the second period to win 28-7.

Spain v USA had been expected to be close - but no-one expected such a mistake-strewn performance by Spain which resulted in a 39-0 win for USA. Early USA scores seemed to result in tension and snatched passes that went to ground time ansd again. USA, on the other hand, looked a completly different team to the first round.

Netherlands went into an early lead against Canada, but the Red Machinen (playing in white...) recovered to end the first period 14-5 ahead. The Dutch dominated possession in the second hald - but to no result as Canada took the game 21-5,

England similarly were shocked by an early Brazil try, but came back to win 19-7.

And so the final round. Australia demolished Russia 36-5, confining Russia to the Bowl.

However, the Russians are down to only 10 players with both Navrat Khamidova and Kazakova out, the former with a broken shoulder/collar bone. Pavel does not like the new pitch - "why not play on grass - it's not winter?" he said to us after the game.

France then beat easily South Africa 26-0, to confirm their place in the quarters, before New Zealand took on Spain.

The Ferns needed a 16 point win for number one seed - but the Spanish pushed them all the way, with the final play almost leading to an equalising try from Berta Garcia (who had a great day) before New Zealand broke away to win it 17-5.

The USA then downed Ireland 29-0 to confirm their quarter-final place, before the two great rivals - England and Canada - traded blow for blow for the Pool C top spot, with England just coming out on top 10-5.

Which finally brought us to Netherlands v Brazil which was, by now, a straight knock-out for the final quarter-final place. Brazil took an early lead and then rose like we have not seen them all series.

The Dutch had no room to move or play the ball - on the rare occasions when they had it. Even so they had their opportunities, even knocking a bouncing ball on in goal with practically half the players on the fiels contesting it.

The last play was a Dutch scrum on the Brazilian 22. The Dutch won it, but Brazil again prevented them playing the ball out. The ensuing maul/melee hit the deck and the referee blew with a penalty for - Brazil. Signal rejoycing and depression in equal measure. For the second year running the Dutch had lost the climactic final game in their home tournament, and for the second year running must play in the bowl.

It's a hard game.