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Aussie women beat NZ in Dubai Sevens final

By AAP
Australia began their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title defence on a winning note as they claimed an unprecedented hat-trick of Emirates Dubai 7s titles with a 26-19 victory against their closest rivals New Zealand. Meanwhile, South Africa’s men made it four Dubai titles in a row with a 21-5 win against Ireland - World Rugby

Australia’s all-conquering rugby sevens women have crowned themselves “queens of the desert” after winning the Dubai Sevens for the third year in succession.

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The world champions began their new season on Saturday in the same grand manner they ended the last – with another trophy-winning display against old rivals New Zealand.

Co-captain Charlotte Caslick, in her first competition since being voted world sevens player of the year, orchestrated their triumph on the first stop in their defence of their season-long World Series title.

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The Australians, who lifted the World Cup, World Series and Commonwealth Games crowns last year, carried on where they left off by winning all six matches in their two days in Dubai, while running in a total of 32 tries.

Just as in September when they beat New Zealand 24-22 in the World Cup final in Cape Town, they got the better of their trans-Tasman rivals in the final, this time prevailing 26-19 with tries from veteran Sharni W illiams, Faith Nathan, the prolific Maddison Levi and co-captain Demi Hayes.

Not even a hat-trick from the Kiwi flyer Michaela Blyde could stop Tim Walsh’s team from making the perfect start to their new campaign, with Madison Ashby’s two key turnovers helping her take the player of the final award.

“Like our coaches say, ‘we’re the queens of the desert!’,’ smiled the outstanding Ashby, whose team seemed to thrive in the blistering conditions while others faded.

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“We thrive off heat, so for us, it was just a golden win.”

Earlier, the Australians had beaten Fiji 38-21 in the quarter-finals with six tries – two each for Levi and Nathan, and one each for Caslick and Williams.

They then overwhelmed France 38-5 in the semis with Levi, Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, Nathan (2), Caslick and Lily Dick all crossing the whitewash.

The Aussies’ major trio of Caslick, Nathan and Levi, who’d all been nominated for the world player award, were unstoppable on the day, with brilliant AFLW convert Levi ending up with 11 tries in all over the two days.

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It was, however, a rare off-day for the Australian men, who got knocked out 24-19 by the Perry Baker-inspired US team in their quarter-final, despite three scores of their own – a brace from Maurice Longbottom and one try for Dietrich Roache.

They then went on to lose 28-15 to Argentina to end up in seventh place overall – a big disappointment after they’d opened their defence of their World Series title with victory at the marquee Hong Kong Sevens last month.

South Africa’s ‘Blitzboks’, who’d beaten Australia in their group match on Friday, won the men’s title with a 21-5 victory in the final over Ireland, featuring two first-half tries for player of the match Shilton van Wyk and another from Siviwe Soyizwapi.

John Manenti’s Australian team, though, are still joint-top of the Series standings alongside the South Africans on 32 points.

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