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New Zealand take Canada crown

Despite being without five players on Black Ferns duty, including captain Sarah Goss, and experienced stars Portia Woodman and Kelly Brazier, New Zealand shone in Langford to take another World Series title and take them to the brink of the overall series win. 

New Zealand faced host side Canada in the final and two early tries from Michaella Blyde and Tyla Nathan-Wong, rocked the home team, who found themselves 12-0 down with just three minutes gone. 

But, with captain Ghislaine Landry leading from the front, Canada threatened to upset the Kiwis and they hit before the break with a try from speedster Julia Greenshields. And that’s the way it stayed until the final play of the game when replacement Alena Saili crossed in the corner to seal the deal for New Zealand. 

Led by Ruby Tui, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Niall Williams, NZ did their best to control the ball in that tense second half and they were largely successful, frustrating the home side by denying them possession at every turn.

Player of the Final Tui was typically humble in accepting her award and also made reference to a number of players who were unable to make the trip to Langford due to commitments with the New Zealand 15s team. She said: “I couldn’t do a single part of my job if it wasn’t the whole team. There were a few girls back home we wanted to make proud, the whole Black Ferns 15s team – it’s a countrywide thing so it was great for us to be able to do that for them. I know they’ll have been following us and they’ll be so pleased.”

Far from being put off by the home support, Tui had nothing but praise for the 4,000 or so Canadians who turned up to shout for their team.

She said: “The crowd here was the bomb, they were off the chain! You can’t ask more from a home town crowd than to cheer for their country as loud as they can because to me that’s cheering for all of rugby so it’s awesome and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Other results

Earlier, the quarter-finals went pretty much to form with Canada, Australia, France and New Zealand all making it into the last four. The home team had never made it past that stage in Langford so it settled plenty of local nerves when Canada took control from the first minute of the game against England with a try from Ashley Steacy. And they never took the foot off the pedal, giving the English no way back into the game, finishing the game 33-5 to the good thanks to further tries from Landry (two), Brittany Benn and Megan Lukan.

The Aussies were too strong for the United States with a brace of tries from Emilee Cherry proving the difference as the Olympic champions ran out 22-10 winners. 

France have been one of the success stories of this season’s series and again proved they are something to be reckoned with by beating a tenacious Ireland 19-5 in the third quarter-final thanks to tries from Pauline Biscarat, Fanny Horta and Montserrat Amedee.

New Zealand had it all their own way against Russia, keeping coach Andrey Kuzin’s side scoreless as Blyde, Crystal Mayes, Tui and Saili getting over the whitewash to win 24-0.

The semi-final against France was more of the same for the Black Ferns Sevens as they continued to improve through the tournament. Blyde and Mayes again scored tries, as did Katarina Whata-Simpkins and the peerless Niall Williams as NZ glided serenely into the final.

For Canada, it was less straightforward as they had to come from behind to beat Australia, who went on to beat France in the bronze final, but it was like the crowd in Westhills carried them over the line on occasion as they came back into the contest after an early Aussie try from inspirational captain Sharni Williams. Composure under pressure, coupled with the blistering pace of players like Greenshields and Charity Williams saw the local favourites into the final as they desperately sought to become the first team ever to win a series event at home. Sadly for them, that is an unusual record that still stands.

Nonetheless, it was a result that moves Canada into equal second in the series with Australia so the series runners-up spot will be hanging in the balance in Clermont – probably coming down to another semi-final between the two teams.

Among those who didn’t emerge from pool play, Fiji put some of that disappointment behind them by winning the Challenge Trophy, beating Spain 31-7 in the final with two stunning tries from Miriama Naiobasali. On Saturday, Fiji had given up a 14-0 lead to lose eventually to Ireland and then they went down 12-7 to Spain before playing brilliantly to hold Australia to a 24-24 draw. 

Other matters to be decided in Clermont will be the automatic World Cup qualification spots, and relegation. For the former, England have said that winning the final spot in San Francisco was their target for the series this year, but France’s fourth place this weekend contrasted with England’s eighth, allowing them to open up a 10 point advantage in the series – or five places.

It’s not impossible for England to overturn this next month, but it will require a return to their Dubai form – at the very least. They won just one game all weekend – against the Netherlands – and on this form there is more chance that they could drop a place in the rankings after Ireland, who closed to within eight points of them after their 14-10 win over England in the 7th placed play-off.

Spain move one more point clear of Brazil in the battle to avoid the drop – but it was a crucial point as it means Brazil must at least make the quarter-finals in Clermont to have any chance staying up. Again, on form, this does not seem likely as they will have to get past at least one out of Canada, Russia and England.

Expected draw for Clermont:

Pool A: New Zealand, United States, Ireland, Guest team.

Pool B: Canada, Russia, England, Brazil

Pool C: Australia, France, Fiji, Spain

As for the players in Langford, Michaela Blyde was the star – not only top scorer with nine tries but also the top “impact” player, based on tackles, breaks, offloads and carries. This interesting statistic also came up with three Russians in the top five places, showing why they are Europe’s top team. If they could convert that into more points they could turn yet their quarter-finals into more semi-finals and finals.

Performance Tracker

Tackles

Breaks

Offloads

Carries

Total

Michaela Blyde (NZL)

18

11

2

23

54

Alena Mikhaltsova (RUS)

14

7

7

21

49

Shannon Izar (FRA)

17

4

6

20

47

Baizat Khamidova (RUS)

23

2

6

15

46

Maria Perestiak (RUS)

20

3

4

15

42

Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe (IRE)

16

7

1

16

40

Cheta Emba (USA)

8

6

3

22

39

 

Points scored

 

Michaela Blyde (NZL)

45

Ghislaine Landry (CAN)

44

Chloe Dalton (AUS)

35

Kristen Thomas (USA)

35

Alena Mikhaltsova (RUS)

30

Montserrat Amedee (FRA)

30

Tyla Nathan-Wong (NZL)

29

Emilee Cherry (AUS)

27

Miriama Naiobasali (FIJ)

26

Cassandra Staples (AUS)

25

 

Results (Day 2)

Cup Quarter Finals: Canada  33-5 England, Australia  22-10 USA, France  19-5 Ireland, New Zealand  24-0 Russia

Cup Semi Finals: Canada  17-10 Australia, France  5-28 New Zealand

Bronze Final: Australia  26-12 France

Cup Final: Canada  7-17 New Zealand

5th Place Semi Final: England  14-26 USA, Ireland  0-17 Russia

5th Place Play-Off: USA  21-26 Russia

7th Place Play-Off: England  10-14 Ireland

Challenge Trophy Semi Finals: Spain  31-0 Netherlands, Fiji  24-19 Brazil

11th Place Play-Off: Netherlands  7-28 Brazil

Challenge Trophy Final: Spain  7-31 Fiji

Series standings

Team

Dubai

Sydney

Las Vegas

Kitakyushu

Langford

Clermont

Pts

New Zealand

20

16

20

20

20

-

96

Canada

10

20

16

18

18

-

82

Australia

18

14

18

16

16

-

82

Russia

16

8

10

12

12

-

58

Fiji

12

12

12

14

4

-

54

United States

2

18

14

8

10

-

52

France

8

10

8

6

14

-

46

England

14

3

3

10

6

-

36

Ireland

4

6

6

4

8

-

28

Spain

3

2

4

3

3

-

15

Brazil

1

4

2

2

2

-

11

South Africa

6

-

-

-

-

-

6

Japan

-

-

-

1

-

-

1

Papua New Guinea

-

1

-

-

-

-

1

Netherlands

-

-

-

-

1

-

1

Argentina

-

-

1

-

-

-

1