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Maddison Levi saves the day as Australia sneak past France in thriller

By Finn Morton
Australia (in orange) vs South Africa (in light green) during the HSBC SVNS Women's Series at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2024 at Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China, on 6 April 2024. Photo by Jayne Russell/Clique Visuals

Try-scoring phenomenon Maddison Levi was the heroine for Australia once again on Sunday evening as the SVNS Series heavyweights avoided a second consecutive defeat with a 24-21 win over France.

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After surviving a scare against Fiji in their opening match at the Hong Kong Sevens, Australia went on a run of three practically perfect wins before taking on arch-rivals New Zealand in the semi-finals.

But after surviving some early pressure from their Trans-Tasman rivals, the Black Ferns Sevens did more than enough to knock the Australians out of Cup final contention with a 28-14 win.

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Australia still had one more match to play at the prestigious event, though. Hours passed before the women in gold took the field again for a blockbuster third-place playoff against giant slayers France.

“Mentally it was kind of challenging to be on a high and then suddenly losing to New Zealand. It’s always tough playing against them,” Australia’s Faith Nathan told RugbyPass.

“But that’s the game of sevens.

“We had two girls debut this tournament and it’s just crazy to see all the new talent coming through Aussie.”

Most of the vibrant crowd at the world-famous Hong Kong Stadium seemed to be cheering for the Australians. Anytime they made a half-break, the crowd went berserk with a passionate cheer.

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But France, who had beaten New Zealand during the pool stages, risked spoiling the party with Valentine Lothoz and Joanna Grisez cancelling out a Madison Ashby try.

France had the lead and all the momentum as well. They were playing with confidence and were rewarded for their Frech flair as Chloe Jacquet crossed to add to their already strong lead.

With just over four minutes to play, SVNS Series juggernauts Australia were up against it, but they weren’t out. Debutant Bridget Clark scored and the Aussies weren’t done there.

As is often the case when the Aussies take the field, Maddison Levi’s individual brilliance had a significant say on this fixture – but in this case, it was the difference.

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Levi, who was nominated for World Rugby’s Sevens Player of the Year in 2023, crossed for tries in the 13th and 15th minute to hand the Australians a hard-fought 24-21 win.

But Levi’s second try was created by Faith Nathan’s rugby magic. The speedster almost broke through for the match-winner but was reeled down, but still fed the ball onto her teammate to score.

“It’s unreal. The crowd really brings our energy in the game,” Nathan said. It’s just so crazy to see that everywhere we go there’s always a crowd that supports sevens. It’s literally amazing.”

“I thought I was and then is aw about three girls on me and I thought, ‘Nup, I need to pass it, I can’t do it.’ But we got through in the end, thank goodness,” she continued.

“I’m just imagining it right now that she caught the ball and scored on the edge and all us girls ran towards her and gave her a cuddle.

“It’s honestly amazing having Maddy Levi in our team, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Her and Charlotte Caslick, both of them just lead the girls from the front and it’s really inspiring.”

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Flankly 8 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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