England Women Sevens have qualified Great Britain for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after securing a fourth place finish in the Sevens World Series in Amsterdam today (Saturday).
Simon Middleton’s charges did, however, do it by the closest of margins, beating Olympic qualifying rivals, the USA, with a 15-14 win in the third/fourth place play-off match. That victory put England level on points with the US but fortunately England’s superior points’ difference over the season handed England the crucial fourth place finish.
Middleton said: “I am obviously absolutely thrilled we have qualified Great Britain for the Olympics. It has been a tough season but round after round, apart from a blip in Atlanta, we have gradually improved and in the end we got the result we needed. Of course, we didn’t do it the easy way, leaving it to the dying moments of the last game and then making it go down to the wire with points difference. Looking ahead, we know we have to improve our consistency but it is certainly going to be an exciting period.”
Against the USA, America went ahead early doors but Marlie Packer reduced the deficit to 7-5 at half-time. Emily Scarratt was once again on top form and eased England ahead with a superb try before Joanne Watmore made it 15-7. The USA typically hit back with a last gasp converted score to make it 15-14, but England kicked the ball into touch on the restart to take the crucial win.
Earlier in the day, a hard-fought 17-14 win over World Series champions New Zealand put England through to the semi-finals.
England had not beaten New Zealand over the course of the entire World Sevens Series campaign. Unperturbed though, they went into a 5-0 lead when Amy Wilson-Hardy dotted down in the early stages.
New Zealand hit back to equalise as Kayla McAlister stepped through the defence and sprinted home from 50 metres. The conversion from Selica Winiata made it 7-5, but Natasha Hunt put England ahead 10-5 another try on the stroke of half-time.
That did not stop the topsy-turvy scoring pattern though, and Sarah Goss gave New Zealand the lead once more.
However, England retained their composure and kept possession for Scarratt to secure the win with three minutes on the clock.
A rematch from day one with Australia beckoned in the semi-finals and that proved to be a game too far for Middleton’s side. Taking on the London champions, England struggled to get much possession and the Wallabies ran in 26-0 winners leaving England with a straight Olympic qualification play-off match against the USA.
England Women Sevens squad
Rachael Burford (Thurrock)
Abigail Chamberlain (Richmond, captain)
Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Marlie Packer (Wasps)
Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
Joanne Watmore (Richmond)
Amy Wilson-Hardy (Bristol)
Kay Wilson (Thurrock)
Sarah McKenna (Saracens)
Claire Allan (Richmond)
England playing schedule
England 5-0 China
Tries: Hunt, Wilson-Hardy (2), Watmore, Wilson, Chamberlain, Hunt, Scarratt
Conversions: Mclean (4), McKenna (4)
England 40-5 Russia
Tries: Hunt (2), Wilson-Hardy, Chamberlain, Packer, Watmore
Conversions: Mclean (4), McKenna
Australia 24-7 England
Cup Quarter-Finals: England 17-14 New Zealand
Tries: Wilson-Hardy, Hunt, Scarratt
Cup Semi-Finals: England 0-26 Australia
Third/Fourth place play-off: England 15-14 USA
Tries: Packer, Scarratt, Watmore