Spain and Kazakhstan won their second round games in WXV3, but both were pushed all the way with opponents coming away with losing bonuses in games with pulsating climaxes
Reports: World Rugby
Spain lead the WXV 3 standings with two thirds of the second round played, following an intriguing Friday of action at The Sevens Stadium.
Las Leonas and Fijiana each scored three tries in Dubai but ultimately 11 points from the boot of full-back Amalia Argudo proved decisive in a 26-19 win for Spain.
Earlier in the day, Kazakhstan built an 18-0 lead at The Sevens Stadium but had to withstand a late Kenya comeback to win 18-12.
The final match of round two will be played on Saturday when Ireland take on Colombia at 17:00 local time (GMT+4) looking to make it two wins from two in Dubai.
SPAIN 26-19 FIJI
A brace from 18-year-old Claudia Peña Hidalgo saw Spain emerge victorious in a tense encounter with Fiji, moving top of the WXV3 standings.
A late try from Atelaite Ralivanawa set up a thrilling last five minutes, but the reliable boot of Argudo was the difference in a game where the momentum swung back and forth, the lead changing hands five times in a frantic opening 40.
Fiji physically imposed themselves in defence in the early stages but a penalty, slotted from in front of the posts by Argudo, put Spain ahead after three minutes.
That lead remained for just a few moments, however, as full-back Luisa Tisolo, star of last week’s victory over Colombia, powered through a Spanish defensive hole, arching towards the corner before offloading to Adita Milinia, who touched down to move Fiji two points ahead.
Argudo nudged Spain back in front with another penalty as Spain hunted for a try of their own, but good attacking shape was let down by poor handling out wide. Settling for a third penalty, Las Leonas led 9-5 after 23 minutes.
Fiji’s discipline was tested as Spain continued to attack but, against the run of play, the Pacific islanders grappled the lead back. Captain Sereima Leweniqila’s skillful offload released Vani Arei down the right, dotting down to add to last week’s brace.
But an action filled first half held one more twist as Peña Hidalgo capitalised on a Fijiana mistake, soaring down the left wing to score and take Spain into the break with a 14-12 lead.
The scoring rates were slowed in the second half as ferocious Fijiana defence kept Spain at bay. However, after 15 minutes camped in the opposition half, a powerful line from Peña Hidalgo broke the deadlock, Argudo’s conversion extending Spain’s lead to nine.
Inaccuracy from both sides made for a largely disjointed second 40, but a yellow card apiece for Spain’s Claudia Pérez Pérez and Fiji’s Merevesi Ofakimalino made for a breathless closing 10 minutes.
Spain were given the chance to put the game to bed, a driving maul finished by replacement Maria Román Mallen with five minutes to go, but Ralivanawa’s try two minutes later had Spain biting their nails. However, a Fiji knock-on enabled Spain to hold on for victory.
KAZAKHSTAN 18-12 KENYA
With both teams held pointless in their WXV 3 debuts, Kazakhstan and Kenya came into this match with a point to prove, adding extra weight to their first meeting at this level. Despite a dramatic final few minutes, it was Kazakhstan who secured their first victory in the tournament.
Kazakhstan took an early lead, scrum-half Daiana Kazibekova darting through a gap to score the first points of the tournament for her team.
Despite a ferocious defensive display from Kenya, Kazakhstan hooker Moldir Askhat added to her team’s lead, collecting the ball at the back of a powerful maul and finding the line with the help of her front-row colleague Natalya Kamendrovskaya.
Possession was traded back and forth with neither side able to maintain more than a couple of phases without turning over the ball.
The relentless pace allowed a number of handling errors to creep into play and while Kenya had the advantage in the scrum, the Kazakhstan lineout operated like a well-oiled machine.
The second half began with a series of probing attacking plays from Kenya that were snuffed out by unrelenting defence.
A TMO check following an attempted ruck clearance led to Kenya replacement Grace Okulu being yellow carded in the 49th minute. The subsequent space allowed Yeva Bekker to cut behind the Kenyan line and score the try that increased her team’s lead to 15 points.
Thereafter, Kenya seemed to grow into the game, Esther Juma and Terry Isabwa stretching the Kazakhstan defensive line, but time and again poor discipline at the breakdown led to possession being lost.
In the 64th minute Kazakhstan were awarded a penalty and Gulim Bakytpek stepped up and deftly slotted the kick to give her side what appeared to be an unassailable 18-0 lead.
But Kenya replied immediately. Capitalising from the restart, Okulu, who had returned from the sin-bin, acted as playmaker to set up Stella Wafula for the try. Okulu then added the conversion.
This lit a fire under the Kenyan players and they flew time and again at the tiring Kazakhstan defence. Nonetheless the Asian team slowly and doggedly worked their way up field only to knock on over the try-line.
Kenya persistence paid off as Prisca Nyerere broke free and flew across the try-line to bring her team within six points of their opponents.
The Lionesses needed a converted try to secure victory and with seconds left on the clock, Kenya secured penalty advantage close to the Kazakhstan try-line.
Wave after wave of red shirts poured forward but the ball was turned over with the clock in the red to confirm Kazakhstan's win.