Teagan Levi touched down either side of halftime as Australia ended New Zealand’s 41-match winning streak to claim their fourth consecutive title in Dubai, as the HSBC SVNS 2024 got off to an electric start.
Not to be overshadowed by her younger sister, Maddison Levi broke her own tournament try record, her 12th try of the weekend in the 13th minute was the decisive one.
The match kicked off at an astonishing speed – and did not let up. Bienne Tarita scored the opening try with just 23 seconds on the clock to set Australia on the road to the title in the 23rd final meeting between the two sides.
But the Black Ferns Sevens made it difficult for the champions. Jorja Miller touched down twice in the first five minutes en route to a hat-trick in a losing cause, before Maddison Levi settled the tournament in the closing minutes.
Australia’s captain Charlotte Caslick had only praise for the younger Levi. “She’s unbelievable. She’s had an amazing pre-season so we’re all just getting to see the hard work that she’s done this year.”
And she explained the game plan for becoming the first team to beat New Zealand since last year’s final in Dubai: “We wanted to hold the ball as much as possible because we know when they touch it they’re dangerous. That was key for us – restarts and holding on to the ball.
“We love coming to Dubai, we love the fans here, playing in front of you guys. It’s a great team and we’re so proud of them. We worked really hard for this, so it’s really special for us.”
Australia got to the final the hard way. They toughed out a difficult semi against France, despite a red card for Alysia Lefau-Fakasosilea three energy-sapping minutes from time, winning 21-14 courtesy of Maddison Levi’s record-equalling 11th tournament try.
Team-mate Demi Hayes said of the try-machine: “Isn’t she amazing? Her and Faith Nathan are just the best finishers ever. We’re so lucky to have them on our team. In clutch games like that, they always pull it out.”
Earlier, Kelly Brazier’s long-awaited 100th try for New Zealand – she became the third Black Ferns Sevens player to reach that milestone – came at just the right time as they beat Brazil 26-14 in the opening quarter-final.
They then beat Canada 21-19 in the semi-final to set up a repeat of last season’s final against Australia.
Ambitious France claim third, but want more
Yolaine Yengo scored a first-half hat-trick, and Lou Noel added the wrapping early in the second period as France gave themselves an early Christmas present by beating Canada for the second time in Dubai to secure third place by winning the bronze final 26-5.
The comprehensive win – the match was long over when Olivia Apps crossed for Canada’s consolation try a minute from time – was the first time Les Bleues have beaten Canada in a bronze final in five attempts.
But Les Bleues wanted to go further in an Olympic year, Chloe Pelle said. “We really wanted to be in the final and we really wanted to win the tournament. We know we can, so it’s going to be for next time. But it was important to get back on our feet and to win that medal.”
Fiji end Dubai campaign on a high
Ilisapeci Dalaiwau raced in for the golden-point touchdown as Fiji beat Ireland 24-19 to claim fifth place at the end of an entertaining, error-strewn match.
Raijieli Daveua was satisfied with Fiji’s 24-19 golden-point win over Ireland in the fifth-place play-off, but admitted Fiji had expected more: “I know we didn’t make it into the top four - that was our main target for this week,” she said. “We didn’t do that, but we managed to claim fifth with our last game. We managed to pull up our socks. We know we have a few things we need to work on … but we did well today.”
USA, meanwhile, grabbed eight vital HSBC SVNS 2024 series points, with a 38-7 win over Brazil to claim victory in the seventh place play-off.
Japan and South Africa finished ninth and 10th respectively, after a hard-fought play-off ended 12-5. And Great Britain had been surprisingly shut-out by Japan in the ninth-place semi-final earlier on finals day, but recovered to come back from 12-0 down against Spain in the 11th-place play off to win 26-12, and claim two league points.
Pool A: New Zealand 19-14 South Africa; Fiji 38-17 Great Britain; Fiji 21-17 South Africa; New Zealand 43-7 Great Britain; Great Britain 17-5 South Africa; New Zealand 29-21 Fiji
Pool B: Australia 39-0 Brazil; Ireland 35-7 Japan; Ireland 19-14 Brazil; Australia 66-0 Japan; Japan 12-21 Brazil; Australia 33-5 Ireland
Pool C: United States 27-0 Spain; France 29-0 Canada; France 28-7 Spain; United States 10-15 Canada; Canada 38-12 Spain; United States 5-38 France
Quarter-Finals: New Zealand 26-14 Brazil; Ireland 12-14 Canada; France 38-14 Fiji; United States 5-32 Australia
9th-12th Place Semi-Finals Great Britain 0-21 Japan; South Africa 17-0 Spain
Semi-Finals: New Zealand 21-19 Canada; France 14-21 Australia
11th Place: Great Britain 26-12 Spain
9th Place: Japan 12-5 South Africa
7th Place: United States 38-7 Brazil
5th Place: Ireland 19-24 Fiji
3rd Place: Canada 5-26 France
Final: New Zealand 19-26 Australia