Spain did exactly what their men’s team did last weekend and secured the final spot at the Olympics with an outstanding win at the women’s rugby Repechage in Dublin. Recap on what happened on Day One HERE
Russia's Daria Lushina blows a kiss to the crowd. Photo credit: INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Beating Russia, the favourites, in the final, Patricia Garcia was Spain’s star with her two early tries doing early damage and her conversions too playing a crucial role in an all round virtuoso display from the diminutive Spanish veteran.
Both sides had enjoyed a positive passage to the final, with huge wins in pool play before coming through their knockout games relatively unscathed on the second day. Russia arguably had the tougher route into the final, overcoming an up and coming Irish side in the Semi Finals while Spain were pretty comfortable against China.
Barbara Pla and Patricia Garcia gave Spain a storming start with their strong running and mazy side steps and Russia were forced into the defensive in the opening exchanges.
The poise of Daria Lushina got them out of some early danger but Spain came at them in waves and it was one of their star players Patricia Garcia who spotted a gap from a ruck and sprinted over to score and convert for a 7-0 lead. It was all Spain - with Russia surely missing their brilliant captain Nadezda Kudinova and Garcia again went over for the vital second score, with her brilliant kick making it 14-0.
But Russia have pace to burn and when Dario Babkova made a break the field opened up for her for a 14-7 scoreline at the break.
Spain started the second half brilliantly with an early score from Barbara Pla after another Garcia break. Russia’s discipline started to really let them down but a lovely piece of play from Daria Lushina, which included a kick and collect and a wonderful pass, put Babkva away again and the lead was down to 19-12.
But Russia were rattled by Spain’s smart tight tactics and made unlikely handling errors - one right in front of their own try line and Garcia bided her time and booted the ball out to huge celebrations.
Elsewhere Cook Islands won the Challenge Trophy thanks to their win over Hong Kong, while China finished fifth with a strong win over Argentina in their final outing and Ireland finished third and secured a spot on the World Series.
The day in full
The day began with the bottom eight teams playing in the Challenge Trophy Quarter Finals before the top eight then met in the Cup Quarter Finals.
In the opening games, Madagascar lost out narrowly in the pouring rain 7-0 to the Cook Islands for whom Stephens was in excellent form again.
Portugal continued the progress they have made over the weekend with a 29-9 win over Mexico, Zimbabwe were crushed 20-0 by Hong Kong while there was a first win for the popular Venezuelan team who beat Trinidad & Tobago.
Then it was onto the Cup Quarterfinals.....
Russia v Argentina
Russia started as overwhelming favourites but it was Argentina who made the better start with Mayra Genghini and Valeria Montero running hard. But Russia’s nerves settled with a try from Daria Bobkova racing away. When Ekaterina Kazakova scored again before the break it was pretty much curtains for the Argentines. Bobkiva - the find of the weekend - was over again after some brilliant rucking from her centres.
Khamidova joined the party with a good finish out wide and Elena Zdrokova came off the bench to round off what in the end was rather a rout with Bobkova adding another at the death to make it 34-0.
Ireland v Tunisia
Ireland began brightly with Niamh Briggs making a lovely break through the middle but the Irish XV captain who is new to 7s, took a nasty fall and was helped off the pitch with what looked a knee injury.
Lucy Mulhall spotted a gap to race over for the opening try which she converted and Asheligh Baxter was then rewarded for her tenacious defence when she dived over after a mistake from Tunisia behind their own try line to lead 14-0 at the break.
Alison Miler was over after the break before Nicole Croinin finished very well out wide. The icing on the cake was added by tries from Stacy Flood, Miller to win it 38-0
Kazakhstan v Samoa
Both sides struggled early on with the slippery conditions on the field after the earlier wet weather and though Kazakh captain Bella Milo was nippy and her quick thinking led to a try from Balzhan Koishybayeva.
In a scrappy match, where neither side could hang onto the ball, that was the only try of the first half and Kazakstan lost their captain Anna Yakovleva to injury.
But Kazakhstan came out firing with Svetlana Klyuchnikova racing over for the opening try. Samoa put some huge hits in, especially Keilamarita Pouri-Lane but they couldn't stop Olessya Teryayeva going over to make it 19-0. There was another score from Nigora Murmatova to finish the game 26-0 up.
Spain v China
Barbara Pla showed her sevens class with a brilliant opening try in this game with her pace and footwork taking her under the sticks after China had started relatively well but were punished by an error.
A lovely break from Ling Chen helped China win some territory but Spain were tenacious at the breakdown and manager to hang on 7-0.
A wonderful break from Gu Yaoyao saw China come out firing after the break but they couldn't make it count and even though Spain were making it hard on themselves with some poor passing and decision making but finally they were over through Maria Casado and Patricia Garcia’s conversion was vital as they pushed it out to 14-0. Garcia finished it off with a great finish after a Casado break and that was that.
CUP SEMI FINALS
Ireland v Russia
As expected, the opening exchanges in this one were incredibly tight with both sides showing nerves. Ireland, with the benefit of a vocal crowd behind them began with some huge tackling, but Russia, despite some early errors, were over first through Iulia Guzeva who went around Audrey O’Flynn for the first try.
Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe was well marshalled up the wing and Russia were again showing their physicality at the breakdown. But Ireland came roaring back. A brilliant finish and fend from Aoife Doyle put her through the middle for the opening try to level it up just before halftime. But Russia were not done and with nothing left on the clock, Ekaterina Kazakova raced over through a huge gap from 40 metres and Russia led 12-5 at the break.
Russia’s breakdown work got them off to a good second half start and it was the pace of Elena Zdrokova with her seventh try of the weekend under the posts. But Russia lost Baizat Khamidova for a high tackle on Nicole Cronin and even at 19-5 down Ireland grew in belief. Alison Miller grabbed a try back in the left corner but in the end it was simply too little too late and Russia hung on to win a place in the Final.
Kazakhstan v Spain
With all of the odds in Spain’s favour, including a good support base here in Dublin, they went into this with the expectation of a win high.
They made a nervy start but a brilliant step and sprint from Iera Ecebarria saw them go a try up with about 30 seconds to go before the break. The nerves were then officially settled when Elisabet Martinez sprinted over through a clean gap and Garcia’s kicks made it 14-0 against a Kazakhstan side who led brilliantly again by the veteran Anna Yakovleva.
But Yakoleva was carded after the break and Garcia took advantage with an excellent finish to put the game beyond doubt, with her conversion bringing it to 21-0 and delivering the critical score. Maria Casado’s try and Garcia’s conversion pushed it out even further and though Kazakhstan never gave up, it was Spain’s day with the 28-0 win.
Bronze Medal Match
Ireland were determined to secure at worst a World Series spot and when Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe and Aoife Doyle scored early it looked a good bet.
Some ferocious Kazakh rucking led to a try for Alina Askerova but a lovely pass from the Irish captain Mulhall put Doyle into space again and she helped Ireland to a 19-5 lead.
Kazakhstan came back hard in the second half and it took a massive tackle from Crowe to stop them from scoring form one fast penalty. Kazakhstan captain Anna Yakovleva became more and more an influence in the game but Ireland were more than a match and hung on to secure a win and with it a spot on next year’s World Series.