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Watch: Maddison Levi’s individual brilliance wins extra-time SVNS thriller

By Finn Morton
Maddison Levi scores the winning try in Australia's extra-time win over the United States in Vancouver. Picture: Finlay Reith.

Maddison Levi’s return to the SVNS Series couldn’t have been scripted any better. After serving a suspension, the Australian was back in the gold in time for an extra-time thriller against the United States at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium.

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Levi, who was nominated for World Rugby’s Sevens Player of the Year in 2023, was the heroine the Series leaders needed as they secured top spot in Pool B with a 17-12 win.

With the scores locked at 12-all at the end of regulation, the United States piled on the pressure as they retained possession off the kick-off to start the golden point period.

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The USA looked more than threatening as they made their way towards Australia’s try line, but a loose ball and a half-opportunity for Levi flipped the match on its head in an instant.

Levi forced the drop from the USA with a desperate stop in defence five metres out from her own try line. The Aussie jumped up and pounced on the loose ball to run the distance to the house for the win.

“I’m blowing a little bit. My legs are still getting back to feeling,” Levi told RugbyPass on Day Two at SVNS Vancouver.

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“It’s good to be out on the park with the girls.

“It’s see ball, get ball. As soon as it was on the ground I was like, ‘I know if I just carry strong I’ll set up for the girls out wide or if there’s space just go.’

“Halfway through I couldn’t feel my legs.”

Levi, who was crowned a Shawn Mackay medallist for Sevens Player of the Year at the Rugby Australia Awards earlier this month, has had a tough start to the season.

After seeing red in the SVNS Cape Town final for a high shot, Levi returned from a three-game ban to face rivals New Zealand in the Perth quarter-finals.

But unfortunately for Levi, it happened again. The Australian was sent off in her return to the SVNS Series and was handed a four-game suspension which ended in Vancouver.

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“I’ve obviously done a lot on my tackle technique being a main focus,” Levi said.

“I didn’t want to overplay my hand, I just wanted to go out there and do the basics well.

“I didn’t want to open up and do too much too early because that’s when I seem to lose myself a little bit in those games.

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“You train so hard and just to not be out there on the field, I guess it’s heartbreaking so I just wanted to come out there and do what I can for the girls.

“Being out there, it’s my happy place with the girls beside me.

“Just doing whatever I can to get over the line and just playing with those girls makes me so happy.”

SVNS Series leaders Australia have had to overcome some truly tough opponents to book their place in the knockout stage with an unbeaten record.

Australia held on for a 12-10 win over Japan on Day One – a vastly different game compared to their 66-nil victory over the same side in Dubai a few months ago.

The Aussies also fought hard to get the better of Fiji, and the United States game of course went to extra-time. But they’re three wins and that’s what matters.

“I think we faced a lot.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in our squad which is good so we’ve got a lot of fresh faces, a lot of people debuting for our squad which just shows what we’re building not just as a team but as a squad.

“But to go out there and perform no matter who we’re against, no matter who’s on the field is pretty awesome.”

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Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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