GB v Mexico
A ‘semi’ only by the terms of the tournament – there were only four teams involved. Mexico continued their much improved form to make GB work hard in the opening stages. But the moment the top seeds turned over possession, Grace Crompton again showed her qualities, scooting away untouched down the left wing.
This was the chance for the younger, less experienced players to enjoy game-time. Alicia Maude was caught dallying over a pass to concede a knock-on, but for the rest of the match they dovetailed well into the systems laid down by Scott Forrest and James Rodwell, the manager.
As the seasoned hands came on to replace them, the intensity increased. Amy Wilson Hardy repeated her thundering tackles of the day before and added another try to her CV.
GB v USA
The USA had beaten the young Canada squad to qualify to play against the short-odds favourites. They were penalised in the first minute, unwisely leaving Jasmine Joyce on the ball; she was through in a flash for another eye-catching try. In the second minute of play, ditto. As GB swung the ball across the pitch, suddenly there was no-one facing her. (14-0)
No wonder Scott Forrest chose to start with her; she unbalances play so dramatically.
USA got into the game at a penalty; Summer Harris Jones burst through to score. (14-5) A forward pass by Shona Campbell gave Jaz Gray the chance to close the gap to 14-12.
But from there the all-round skills of the GB squad meant they were always in charge. Emma Uren impressed again, ruthless in the tackle and inventive with her plays. She created a gap to run through for a 60-metre solo try that sealed the first half 19-12.
From Meg Jones’ kick-off the USA were pinged for holding. Celia Quansah fed Joyce on the left and she had her hat-trick. (24-12). Jones placed a wicked grubber through to the line. As defender and attacker attempted to haul the ball in, it ricocheted off a post into grateful American hands. But the British had more tricks up their sleeve.
After the USA kicked out of defence into touch, Jones offered a pass to Grace Crompton and she raced away down the right flank to score her sixth try of the tournament. (29-12)
To complete the runaway victory, Amy Wilson Hardy produced a burst down the left to push the final score to
GB 34 USA 12
Player of the Final: Jasmine Joyce
– to nobody’s surprise; her performances electrified the crowds.
The tournament is repeated in Edmonton, Alberta on 25-26 September.
This was GB’s third tournament of the summer. Sevens has been badly hit by the pandemic, and none of the three was totally satisfying.
At St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent, in May only two other nations were able to take part, France and Ireland. That was still pre-Olympics and Forrest had not yet decided his final squad.
The Quest for Gold tournament in Los Angeles was equally last-minute and well short of the standards to be expected in Tokyo. But it did give players the vital game-time they had been starved of for such a long time.
Unfortunately the tournament in Vancouver raised old questions about gender equality The term ‘Fast Four’ attempted to mask the fact that this was far from a normal Sevens meet. Unwelcome facts had to be bent, so GB’s second meeting with Mexico was dressed up as a ‘semi-final’, which is really quite naughty.
Even if the Tokyo silver-medallists, France, had been able to come, it would have left the women’s share of the tournament as a poor second. The men enjoyed full-scale HSBC World Series backing; the women another hotch-potch of a mere four nations, one of which Mexico, gallantly stepped in a second time as last-minute replacements.
So while exotic nations (in the rugby sense) like Chile, Germany and Hong Kong were present in masculine form, the organisers were quite unable to attract more than those four female teams.
All four were essentially youthful prospects for future years. But the British included those highly experienced practitioners, Abbie Brown, Amy Wilson Hardy, Jasmine Joyce and Meg Jones on the strength, meaning they were short odds favourites to walk off with the big prize.
The location, the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, is covered and has a 50,000 capacity, so could hardly be more different from Canada’s traditional World Series venue at the intimate Westshore ground in Langford. The attendance on finals evening was reckoned at about 10,000. The hype it deemed necessary rivalled cricket’s The Hundred for its excesses.
The newcomers to the GB squad showed immense promise. Only one of them was an experienced rugby player, Heather Cowell; she acquitted herself admirably. The others, Grace Crompton, Shona Campbell and Alicia Maude, all justified their presence.
The underlying question is: who exactly are the long-term prospects for Team GB? Of the Olympians, Alex Matthews, Helena Rowland and Holly Aitchison were all playing 15s last weekend. No doubt Simon Middleton would love to have them challenging for a place in the World Cup squad next year. How committed are they to Sevens?
If it is to be RFU policy to separate the two formats more permanently, then it is the Sevens youngsters present in Vancouver who are most likely to want to specialise.
GB Squad (the starting seven in the final asterisked:
Abbie Brown (co-captain)*
Meg Jones (co-captain)*
Amy Wilson Hardy