New Zealand increased their lead at the top of the Women’s Sevens World Series rankings with victory in China at the weekend.
A stellar showing from Kelly Brazier, who contributed 12 points, saw them beat England 19-5 in the Cup Final. New Zealand just need to reach the Cup semi-finals in the final round of the series in Amsterdam in May, to lift the overall title.
England, the winners of the last round in Houston, took an early lead in the final with Kat Merchant racing over to give her side a 5-0 lead but a combination of clinical finishing and aggressive defence meant that was as good as it got for England, with New Zealand scoring three unanswered tries.
Ruby Tui raced over down the right first for a score converted by Brazier and then Brazier herself touched down just before half time for a 12-5 lead. And it was Brazier again, in sublime form all weekend, who scored the third try which she converted in the second half to take the win 19-5.
With just one round of the series to go in Netherlands, New Zealand (54) have an eight point lead over England (46) at the top of the standings. Australia remain in third on 38.
Elsewhere Canada finished third in China with a win over USA, Ireland lifted the Plate Final, and Japan won the Bowl.
New Zealand head coach Coach Sean Horan said: “I am incredibly proud of the team and the work they put in over the two days. They stuck to their plan and were perfectly clinical in their execution of that game plan.
“They showed a very superior set of skills and despite the monsoon-like conditions we had for two days, they were exceptional in their ball handling.
“Our defence was excellent particularly in the Final and they demonstrated a real commitment to defence while maintaining patience with the ball in hand which gave them a real edge.”
Read on for a full recap of day two of the China 7s.
The day began with the Cup quarterfinals which saw New Zealand take on Ireland for the first time ever in either 7s or 15s rugby. New Zealand were too strong, winning 31-5 despite Ireland scoring first and taking the lead. Australia then lost 17-14 to USA in a tense match, while England edged Netherlands 19-12. Canada had no problems overcoming Brazil 33-0 in the final quarterfinal of the morning.
Into the semifinals and New Zealand and England put in strong showings to ensure they booked a safe passage into the Cup decider.
Two tries in the first half saw New Zealand take the lead 12-7 against USA with tries from Kelly Brazier and Kayla McAlister helping them into the lead. In the second half more tries from McAlister and Ruby Tui saw them finish up 24-12 despite USA tries from Nathalie Marchina and Vanesha McGee and New Zealand coasted into the final.
Kat Merchant scored a brace for England in a strong 19-0 win over Canada, who had been looking a real threat all day and England’s defence held firm to keep them out, with Alex Matthews scoring England’s third score.
Newcomers Ireland faced a more experienced Australia side in the first semifinal, in what was a tight tense match. Ellia Green scored first for Australia but Jeanette Feighery pulled one back for Ireland to trail 7-5 at the break. Ireland scored ten points in the second half with a converted Alison Miller try and a penalty from Claire Keohane and despite Australia touching down through Cobie Jane Morgan, it was the Irish who went through to the final.
In the other semifinal, Netherlands comfortably beat Brazil 22-0. Tries for Piel Selbeck, Kelly van Karskamp and Tessa Veldhuiz were enough to seal the win.
Ireland and Netherlands then faced off in the final. Ireland led 7-5 at halftime thanks to an Alison Miller try converted by Keohane with the Dutch scoring through Selbeck again,
Feighery scored in the second half for Ireland and the convertion meant that the additional try from Netherlands wasn’t enough for them to fight-back and Ireland took the Plate title 14-10.
The Bowl Semis saw Japan overcome Fiji and China hammer Tunisia 57-0, much to the delight of the home crowd. China though just came up short in the final. Misaki Suzuki scored early for Japan with her side taking a 7-0 lead into the break and then another try for Chiharu Nakamura which was also converted made it 14-0. China though never gave up and scored two tries in a great second half fight back through Fan Wenjuan and Liu Yan but crucially neither were converted and Japan took the title 14-10.
In other games:
Australia narrowly beat Brazil 7-5 in the 7th/8th place playoff
Fiji beat Tunisia 19-0 in the 11th/12th place playoff
Canada beat USA 17-5 in the 3rd/4th place playoff.