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RECAP: New Zealand, Australia, France faultless at Hong Kong 7s

By Liam Heagney
New Zealand run in a try versus Great Britain in Hong Kong (Photo by Mike Lee/World Rugby)

New Zealand, Australia and France were all faultless on the opening day of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens as they pursue top seedings for the HSBC SVNS Series Grand Final next month in Madrid.

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All three sides have already secured their spots in Spain, but series leaders Australia have the chance to secure their top-two seeding this weekend.

New Zealand, meanwhile, have won gold at the last two tournaments in Vancouver and Los Angeles, and are the reigning champions in Hong Kong, beating Australia 26-17 in last year’s inaugural competition, and will be vying to retain that title.

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Jannes Kirsten on returning to South Africa and the Bulls

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In Pool C, Canada and the USA also both started with two wins from two in their pursuit of spots in Madrid, setting up an exciting pool decider on Saturday in a repeat of the Los Angeles bronze final.

Pool A – New Zealand flawless start to title defence
New Zealand started their title defence in style, a 24-5 victory over Great Britain followed with a 33-7 victory against Brazil. Michaela Blyde, playing her 50th sevens series tournament, scored twice to take her side 12-0 in front at the break against GB, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe and Stacey Waaka adding two more in the second half for the win.

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Against Brazil, the Black Ferns Sevens took a 12-0 lead into the break, overcoming Milena Silva’s reply to score three more before the final whistle.

France won both their opening games in Hong Kong in strong fashion, a 28-17 win over Brazil followed by a 34-7 victory against Great Britain.

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France crossed for four tries against as Jade Ulutule slotted all of her conversions in their first game, and against Great Britain, they dominated the first half, or more accurately Joanna Grisez did, as she scored a hattrick of tries.

Pool B – Australia seal comeback win
Australia opened their Hong Kong account with a dogged comeback win to beat Fiji by 19-12 with six players. The Fijiana stunned the series leaders early as Helenia Young scored in their first attack, followed by captain Raijieli Daveua soon after, before Faith Nathan reduced the deficit to five at half-time.

Sharni Smale levelled the game, but a high shot and subsequent red card for Madison Ashby slashed their chances. However, with Fiji’s Younis Bese sent to the bin, the numbers on the field were equalled, Maddison Levi taking advantage to secure a stunning victory.

They continued their winning ways in more convincing fashion against Ireland in a 35-0 victory, sisters Teagan and Madison Levi crossing in the early stages before Bienne Terita made it 21-0 at the break, Ruby Nicholas scoring on debut to put the game out of reach.

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Ireland had won their opener 20-7 over South Africa, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe grabbing a brace between tries from Stacey Flood and Vicki Elmes Kinlan.

Fiji bounced back in their second game to win 24-7 against South Africa, a dominant first-half performance seeing three tries from Verenaisi Ditavutu, Raijieli Daveua and Ilisapeci Delaiwau. Daveua added another after the break to keep their hopes of quarter-final rugby alive.

Pool C – USA and Canada set up showdown
Canada opened the proceedings in Hong Kong in style with a 24-5 victory over Japan, thanks to a hasty double from Charity Williams. Her first set the tone for the weekend, taking the ball from her own 22-metre line and past three defenders.

Meanwhile, USA won their opener over Spain with an identical 24-5 score line. The Los Angeles bronze medallists led 12-0 at the break and took that lead to 24-0 with two more tries in the second half from Kayla Canett and Alev Kelter, Spain’s only reprieve coming late on from Elisabet Segarra Cararach after the US went down to six.

A tight affair saw Canada edge Spain 14-7 in their second game, Williams once again the hero as her second-half try took them beyond the converted score of Spain’s Juana Stella in the opening minute. It was similarly close between the USA and Japan, all square at 5-5 at the break.

Jaz Gray and Kelter took the USA in front with a score each, but Japan’s comeback efforts through Marin Kajiki’s try came too later. Saturday’s fixture against will be crucial for Japan to give them a chance to overhaul South Africa, Brazil and Great Britain before Madrid.

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