The curtain came down on a record-breaking HSBC
World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019 with a piece of history as
USA ran out 26-10 winners over New Zealand in the HSBC France
Women's Sevens final to win their first-ever Cup title.
The Black Ferns Sevens had already claimed the
series crown – their fifth in seven series – by reaching the
semi-finals but were denied a double celebration at the Stade
Aguilera in Biarritz by an inspired USA performance.
New Zealand had won their last seven Cup final
appearances but it was USA who struck first when Alev Kelter sped
down the left wing for the opening try. Kelter then made the
turnover after Kelly Brazier had sidestepped two players and Cheta
Emba grabbed a second try for the Women’s Sevens Eagles.
Ruby Tui gave the Black Ferns Sevens hope when
she picked up the ball from a ruck and charged down the touchline,
Kelter chased and came close to denying the try but it was given
after consultation with the TMO.
The try didn’t faze the USA, though, who took
the restart after a juggle from Emba and Kelter – later named HSBC
Player of the Final – slipped another tackle to race 70 metres for
her second try, Tyla Nathan-Wong at least keeping her out to
prevent the conversion but they still trailed 19-5 at half-time.
New Zealand’s quest to become only the second
team to come from behind at half-time to win a final – after
Canada in Kitakyushu – wasn’t helped when Michaela Blyde was
sin-binned for a deliberate knockdown and USA work co-captain
Lauren Doyle over for their fourth try of the final.
Shakira Baker did manage to pull one try back
for New Zealand but it wasn’t long before the USA were celebrating
their first Cup title at the 37th event in HSBC World Rugby
Women’s Sevens Series history.
USA coach Chris Brown said, "It’s a pleasure
for me to be able to work with them and do my part but for them to
stick to what we agreed to all weekend was special. We had to sort
our culture out and make sure they wanted to play for each other,
and know what it was like to put the team before themselves. We’ve
got a good group here and from there we had to work out how to
actually defend and show our character through our defence. That’s
what we’ve done all season. We’re still missing a few cogs on the
attacking side but we’re progressing."
New Zealand finished top of the standings with
110 points, 10 more than USA with Canada claiming the series
bronze with 94 points and Australia fourth with 86 points. This
quartet have all confirmed their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic
Games alongside host nation Japan with USA, Canada and Olympic
champions Australia booking their places in Biarritz this weekend.
Black Ferns captain Sarah Hirini, who created
history by becoming the first to play 200 matches on the women's
series in their semi-final win over Canada, said, "This is a
quality USA team and the few basic errors we made proved very
costly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt but we’ve now got to
celebrate a world series win which was the goal of ours from the
start of the season. USA are one of our rivals but the top six
teams on the series are tough at any time. They’ve been there or
thereabouts this season so they deserve a Cup title. They played
their hearts out this weekend. It’s been an awesome 12 months.
It’s been challenging at times as we’ve been through a lot of
adversity back home but we’ve used most of the girls on our roster
and that’s a huge testament to those girls. We’re pretty happy to
be bringing home a series title – our fifth one in seven years."
Pictures from 2019 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures from 2018 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2017 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens,
Pictures from 2016 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong
Pictures of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2015,
Pictures of the Asia Rugby Sevens Olympic Games Qualifier in Hong
Pictures of Singha Thailand Sevens 2015,
Pictures from the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour in Hong Kong,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2014,
Pictures of Hong Kong Sevens 2013,
of Chartis Cup 2012 and
Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2012.