New Zealand crowned HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019 champion as USA claim first ever HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Cup title
New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia qualify for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
China relegated from HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
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.
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 added: “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.”