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SVNS Series leaders Australia miss Vancouver final with surprise loss

By Finn Morton
Australia's Charlotte Caslick in action during the 2024 HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament match between Australia and Fiji at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, on February 23, 2024. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

SVNS Series leaders Australia will not play in the Vancouver Cup final. Maddison Levi gave the Aussies hope with a try at the death, but a missed conversion after the siren saw France move on with a 21-19 win.

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Madison Ashby, who recently re-signed with the Australian sevens program, opened the scoring in the second minute as the women in gold looked to claim some ascendancy in the contest.

But converted tries to Seraphine Okemba, Camille Grassineau and Anne-Cecile Ciofani swung the knockout clash in France’s favour.

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Not even a Maddison Levi double, with the Australian scoring just before half-time again with time up on the clock, could save the Series front-runners from falling short of their goal.

With Bienna Terita out injured, and Rugby Australia revealing that both Ashby and Teagan Levi serving suspensions in Vancouver, the Aussies have had to overcome some “adversity” to even get to this point.

But they were still disappointed. You could see it on their faces as they grouped together for a huddle down the tunnel at BC Place Stadium.

“I guess we had our opportunities, right? And it was going either way,” Australia’s Sharni Smale told RugbyPass. “We’d score, they’d score.

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“It comes down to those tough matches to really take those opportunities and make something of it.

“We faced adversity in Perth and we’re facing it again here so it’s really down to discipline for us. That was our keyword coming in here and we probably haven’t executed that how we wanted to.

“This is footy and sevens is brutal. Sometimes you can learn from them, that’s our motto, ‘you’re either winning or you’re learning.’

“We’ll go out there and we’ll learn from that. These things happen.”

The Australians were the form team to start the 2023/24 season as they took out Cup final glory in both Dubai and Cape Town.

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But with a wealth of expectation and pressure resting on their shoulders, their unbeaten start to the season came to an end with two defeats in Perth – including one to Ireland in the final.

The good news is the Australians have an opportunity to make amends when the SVNS Series heads to LA next week from Friday.

“You always want to go out to perform and put your best foot forward,” Smale said. “You’re playing for your country, you’re playing for Australia.

“LA will be unreal as well. There will be some amazing lights out there and just to be able to play in America, that’s one of the things that Australians really love is we love our sport.

“That will definitely get us up but this will hurt. But as I said, we’ll come back and we’ll fire up because we love playing for our country.”

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