Australian women, Fiji men win Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town

·6 min read

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The Australian women dethroned two-time defending champion New Zealand on Sunday to add the Rugby World Cup Sevens title to their HSBC World Rugby Series and Commonwealth Games championships.

Trailing 24-10, the second-seeded Black Ferns scored late tries to cut the deficit to 24-22 but the top-seeded Australians escaped extra time when Tenika Willison's conversion attempt drifted just wide.

The game turned early in the second half when New Zealand's Niall Williams was sent to the sin bin for throwing the ball away after a penalty. Australia scored twice with the numerical advantage.

Maddison Levi scored three tries for Australia at Cape Town Stadium.

No. 3 France beat the fourth-seeded Americans 29-7 to take the women's bronze.

Fiji scored four tries in the first half en route to a 29-12 win over two-time defending champions New Zealand in a men's final that featured three yellow cards. The Pacific Islanders also won the World Cup title in 1997 and 2005.

No. 7 Ireland, which defeated top-seeded South Africa 24-14 in Saturday's quarterfinal, upset No. 2 Australia 19-14 on a 13th-minute Harry McNulty try in the men's bronze-medal match.

The men's final was a rematch of the Tokyo Olympic gold-medal game where Fiji downed the All Blacks 27-12. New Zealand beat Fiji 28-21 last month in the final of the Los Angeles Sevens.

Joseva Talacolo, Kaminieli Rasaku, Elia Canakaivata, Filipe Sauturaga and Pilipo Bukayaro scored tries for third-seeded Fiji, which led 24-5 at the break.

Moses Leo and Akuila Rokolisoa scored tries for No. 5 New Zealand.

Fiji's Talacolo was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Rokolisoa's try early in the second half. As he came back on, Sevuloni Mocenacagi followed him to the bin. The numbers were evened when New Zealand's Sione Molia was yellow-carded for obstruction.

The Canadian women finished sixth while the men were 13th.

It was a rough finale for the fifth-seeded Canadian women who ran into a buzz saw in Fiji, losing 53-0. Canada trailed 34-0 at the half as No. 6 Fiji, claiming one restart after another, ran in six of its nine tries before the break.

Fiji retained the opening kickoff and pulled into a 10-0 lead on tries by Reapi Ulunisau and Alowesi Nakoci in the first two minutes. The Fijians breached the Canadian defence again as Ana Maria Naimasi fended off Florence Symonds to extend the lead to 15-0 after four minutes.

The onslaught continued with Sesenielie Donu fending off Breanne Nicholas en route to the try-line. Fiji won the ball back at the restart and Ulunisau scored under the posts. The conversion made it 27-0 for Fiji.

It was more of the same at the next kickoff with Raijieli Daveua climbing high to corral the ball and then off-loading to Ulunisau to score under the posts and complete the first-half barrage.

Lavenia Cavuru, Adi Vani Buleka and Donu added tries in the second half to complete the rout for Fiji.

The teams had split their two previous meetings on the World Series with Fiji winning 28-26 in Dubai and Canada prevailing 26-19 in Langford, B.C.

Earlier Sunday, the 10th-seeded Canadian men reeled off 12 straight points for a comeback 12-10 win over No. 17 Chile in the battle for 13th place.

Both Canadian programs have gone through a lot of changes with a spate of retirements after the Tokyo Olympics where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.

The Canadian women, runner-up to New Zealand at the 2013 tournament in Moscow, finished seventh four years ago in San Francisco. The Canadian men’s best showing was a fifth-place finish in 2001 in Argentina. They were 12th four years ago.

Olivia de Couvreur scored two tries with singles from Nicholas and Keyara Wardley as Canada, scoring 22 straight points after conceding a fourth-minute try to Abbie Brown, downed No. 8 England 22-7 to open play Sunday.

De Couvreur was originally a travelling reserve but moved into the playing squad after an injury to veteran Bianca Farella, who ranks second on the World Series all-time try-scoring list with 157.

The 22-year-old de Couvreur was one of seven players on Canada's 13-woman roster aged 22 or under.

The Canadian women fell out of championship contention in a 10-7 loss to the fourth-seeded Americans in quarterfinal play Saturday.

In women's semifinal action, Australia dispatched the U.S. 17-7 and New Zealand dumped France 38-7. In men's semifinal play, New Zealand beat Ireland 17-10 and Fiji defeated Australia 38-14.

Against Chile, the Canadian men found themselves playing defence for almost the entire first half and trailed 10-0 at the break.

Canada got the ball back at the opening kickoff but gave it to Chile with a handling error and the South Americans attacked the Canadian end. After a penalty resulted in a scrum near the Canadian goal line, Julio Blanc touched down in the corner for a 5-0.

Thomas Isherwood made a try-saving tackle to deny a subsequent Chile attack. And Canada's Lockie Kratz was sent to the sin bin late in the half for an illegal tackle. The Condors took advantage of the extra manpower with Blanc scoring.

Josiah Morra put Canada on the board early in the second half, outpacing the defence down the right flank to cut the lead to 10-5. Kratz sliced through the Chilean defence after a penalty and Brock Webster's conversion put Canada ahead 12-10 with two and a half minutes remaining. Kratz was injured on the play and had to be helped off.

After falling to Uruguay on Saturday, the Canadian men survived a 19-point Welsh comeback in the second half to win 33-19 in men's consolation play later in the day.

Canada opened men’s play Friday with a 31-7 win over No. 23 Zimbabwe but fell out of the championship side of the draw after a 19-12 loss to No. 7 France in round-of-16 play.

Both the 24-team men’s and 16-team women’s event featured a “winner take all” format, meaning a single loss takes a team out of championship contention.

South Africa marks the eighth edition of the men’s World Cup Sevens and the fourth for the women.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2022

The Canadian Press