Australia’s men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams are chasing the tantalising prospect of double World Cup glory in South Africa on Sunday, when the three-day Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament concludes.
Both teams have already won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this year, while the women also took Gold at the Commonwealth Games. For the women, Faith Nathan continued her dazzling World Cup try-scoring exploits, with her double blowing away England and powering Australia’s all-conquering sevens team into the semi-finals in Cape Town.
They’ll be joined on Sunday by their fellow world series winners, the Australian men’s sevens side, who have made the last-four of their event with a harder-earned 14-5 victory over France.
The format of the Rugby World Cup Sevens is unique among other Sevens tournaments for it’s pure knock-out format. And it’s the Aussie women who look best placed to complete a triple crown of international triumphs, following their 35-5 crushing of England.
Their 22-year-old flyer Nathan just can’t seem to stop scoring. After her five-try tour de force in the 48-0 win over Madagascar on Friday – a record tally in a World Cup sevens match – she went over for a couple more, proving just too electric for her English markers while also using her lightning speed to good effect in defence.
But captain Chalotte Caslick was the one pulling all the strings, after her searing individual try opened Australia’s account in the first minute and she then sent Nathan clear down the left wing for the second after five minutes.
Madison Ashby smashed her way through for a third soon before halftime with Australia in a commanding 21-0 lead at the break.
Emma Uren gave England a flicker of hope with the first try in the second half but Nathan ended any chance by racing round her chasers on the right edge for her seventh try of the tournament, before Teagan Levi wrapped it up with the Aussies’ fifth try of the match.
Caslick’s team will be hot favourites to advance to the final as they play the USA, 10-7 winners over Canada, in the semis.
“It was awesome,” said Caslick. “Our whole campaign at the moment is about being switched on from that first kick-off, so we really brought it from that first moment which was awesome. It was really great to play in front of that crowd, they were incredible.”
There’s the looming prospect, too, of a final showdown against reigning champs New Zealand, who hammered Ireland 28-0 in their quarter-final and will next play France in the last-four.
The men were involved in a much tougher affair, with a first-half try from Henry Paterson giving them a 7-0 halftime lead, before the French struck back with a well-worked score for Paulin Riva which reduced the deficit to just two.
But a bit of individual magic from Maurice Longbottom was enough to wrap up their win and book a daunting semi-final date at the Cape Town Stadium with Olympic champions Fiji. Longbottom and Henry Paterson each scoring a double on the way to a 35-0 victory.
“It was a real tight battle in that first half,” Paterson reflected. “It doesn’t get too much tougher than that, we finished a fair while ago and I’m still out of breath! It was a defence-heavy game against a big physical team like the French, it’s going to take it out of you. So, it’s a massive achievement to come away with that win. We’re stoked.
“We’re full of confidence. We’ve got a healthy squad, we’ve got the momentum and we feel like we’ve got the style to beat any team on our day. So, heading into tomorrow just backing what we’ve done so far and the sky’s the limit.”
The Semi-Finals session will start at 8:00PM AEST tonight, with the Aussie Women’s team set to play their Semi-Final against the USA at 9:05PM AEST. The other Semi-Final will be between New Zealand and France.
The Men, fresh from their World Series triumph in Los Angeles two weeks ago, will take on Fiji at 9:33PM AEST. The other Men’s Semi-Final is between Ireland and New Zealand.
The Final matches will then take place early on Sunday morning, with the bronze medal matches starting at 3:00AM AEST and the Championship Finals commencing at 4:17AM AEST.