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Redemption: Maddison Levi’s defensive heroics see Australia win thriller

By Finn Morton
Maddison Levi of Australia runs with the ball to score a try against Brazil during the HSBC SVNS rugby tournament on December 2, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Martin Dokoupil/Getty Images)

Maddison Levi being the hero for the Australia women’s sevens side isn’t exactly a new narrative. The try-scoring machine has stunned fans the world over with her relentless pursuit with the ball in hand, but it was a slightly different story on Saturday night.

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France trailed SVNS Series leaders Australia 14-17 when the time ticked into final play territory. But Les Bleues Sevens had the ball about five metres out from the try line and looked intent on shocking the world just as they did in Vancouver.

They threw everything at their favoured opponents and looked more than threatening too as Caroline Drouin threw a monster pass to replacement Yolaine Yengo on the left wing.

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Yengo had about seven metres to her left to play with, but Australia’s Maddison Levi stood opposite the Frenchwomen – looking determined to make the match-winning stop.

Levi, 21, forced Yengo to test her on the outside before the Australian bundled her opponent into touch with a forceful hit that sparked both gasps and cheers throughout the stands at Dignity Health Sports Park.

The Australian stood up and was immediately embraced by captain Charlotte Caslick and sister Teagan Levi was second to greet the defensive heroine for the SVNS Series juggernauts.

“That’s the one thing that went straight through my head is she’s really small, don’t hit her high. Don’t give any inkling into it being a bad tackle,” Levi told RugbyPass.

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“We spoke about it in the game before, when we’ve got nothing to lose we’ve just got to push up off that line and not give them any space.

“I just knew I had to get up and force her on my outside and then just back my speed and my strength to get her to that outline.”

It was a redeeming moment for the Australians, too, after they were stunned in last weekend’s SVNS Vancouver semi-final by France at BC Place Stadium.

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But Australia, who had already beaten Perth champions Ireland earlier in pool play, made sure to put the past behind them as they prepared to tackle their proven rivals.

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“Redemption I’d call it. It’s always a tough battle against them, they always come out and put on their best footy,” Levi said.

“It’s good to match them as practice for the Olympics in tough games like this.

“There was a calm feeling before we went out and we all knew what happened last week, we park it to last week and we go out there, we do our jobs and we keep improving.”

But what fans may not have seen is the emotion that this result generated. Without naming names, there were a couple of French players in tears down the tunnel at the LA venue.

Meanwhile, when the Australians walked up the very same tunnel a few moments later, they were all smiles and in good spirits after sailing through pool play with a perfect 3-0 record.

“Every time you step out, and we’ve got the emblem on our jersey, (Sharni) did a little spill at the start for our jersey presentation and they worked so hard to actually wear the emblem on our jerseys.

“So, for us to be able to step out and do our country proud each game… I guess you learn more from your losses so we’ve become a better team from it.

“I’m sure they’ll work on theirs and come out and it’ll probably be an even closer game next time.”

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