Team GB made a highly encouraging start to their campaign. They eased into things with a victory over Mexico, but Mexico showed how far they have advanced since they last met at the Quest for Gold in Los Angeles.
Last time it was a 76-0 thrashing, but in the covered BC Place Stadium GB had to wait several minutes for a gap to open up. They finally stretched to a comfortable 39-0 win, but Mexico must be congratulated on their commitment.
Scott Forrest took the opportunity to blood most of his newcomers here and they showed why they were included. Heather Cowell looked as though she had been in the set-up for years, and Grace Crompton displayed the pace and judgement that has brought her to national notice at Bristol Bears.
In the second game they faced a very different looking Canada squad from usual. Instead of the familiar figures who have caused GB so much pain since that desperate bronze-medal result at the Rio Olympics, here was a youthful group who need only a touch more experience to emulate their senior sisters.
Once more GB had to work patiently for a first opening. But their patterns were good, their line-speed admirable, and they had Jasmine Joyce who not only ran in a try for them, but doubled back thrillingly to prevent a runaway Canadian score. The return of Amy Wilson Hardy added greatly to the team’s performance; she put in some huge hits and completed two fine tries to add to her record collection.
The big Canadian crowd roared as their team went over for a late try, but that proved to be the extent of their scoring.
The final match of the day saw the two unbeaten sides meet up. USA had trounced Mexico 62-0, but GB now showed their very best form. Playing with confidence and fluency, they kept possession for long periods, finding regular gaps in the defensive line
Abi Burton has now taken on Alex Matthews role as the enforcing link; Emma Uren showed her acute spatial awareness, choosing one moment to draw two opponents and release a great offload for Celia Quansah to score the first try. Quansah too was an important cog in the wheel, using her power, pace and pirouette to great effect.
Meg Jones had a party; she waltzed through a non-existent gap for the second try, but her pièce de résistance was a sudden kick ahead, chase and pick-up to cover three-quarters of the pitch on her own. If the World 12s promoters want another new rugby format they could try 1-a-side; Jones might become their champion.
Late on Grace Crompton received the ball on the end of the line. She speeded for the corner, slowed, induced her marker to do the same and ran round her to place the ball under the posts. She disappeared under a team embrace.
Abbie Brown confirmed her status as a great all-round Sevens player.
Abbie Brown (co-captain)
Meg Jones (co-captain)
Amy Wilson Hardy