Emilee Cherry scores last minute winner as Australia claim second Sevens World Series crown

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Emilee Cherry goes over for the winning try against France that won Australia the World Series.

The Australian Women’s Sevens side will be crowned overall series champions of the HSBC Sevens World Series after ensuring a place in the Final in Paris on Saturday night.

The side will meet New Zealand in the tournament decider but can’t be beaten on the overall ladder, leading their Trans-Tasman rivals by four points heading into the final leg of the Series.

Australia overcame Fiji in a tough Quarter Final, 22-19 before facing off against tournament hosts France in the Semi Final. In another tight contest, Australia was able to emerge victorious, 21-17. Both times Australia came from behind to secure victory, with tries to Emilee Cherry proving to be the winning difference.

The Series victory is the second time Australia has been crowned overall Champions, with the Aussie 7s winning the HSBC 2015-2016 World Series.

Australian Women’s Sevens co-captain, Shannon Parry said: “It was a hard-fought match there, sorry to everyone at home for putting you on the edge of your couches.”

“It’s 5:30am at home but we did it for all our squad members back home and for everyone that’s been on this journey with us this year.

“There was a lot of pressure coming into that match, we just go through in a nail-biter against Fiji and then to win it with the last play was a fantastic effort from the girls.

“I guess it’s a short-lived celebration for us tonight because we want to take away that title tomorrow,” Parry said.

Australia will play New Zealand in the Cup Final of the HSBC Paris Sevens at 19.30 (UAE time) on Sunday 10 June.

MATCH REPORTS

Charlotte Caslick in action against Fiji

Charlotte Caslick in action against Fiji

Australia 22 defeated Fiji 19

Australia had a nervous start to the Quarter Final with Charlotte Caslick sent to the sidelines for two minutes for a high tackle.  The Fijians capitalising on the extra woman advantage with Miriama Naiobasali scoring in the corner after a huge amount of pressure and possession.  Shannon Parry entered the fray having an immediate impact off the pine, making a huge break up the middle before showing composure to go to ground allowing Caslick to get across the white line in the following phase to put scores level.  As the clock wound down to half time the Aussies struggled to get their hands on the ball, Fiji making their possession count again, Pricilla Sauvavi Siata with her first try of the day to have her side leading by seven at the break.

The Aussies knew they had to score first in the second half and it was none other than Emilee Cherry who stepped up, drawing a defender to allow Caslick to sprint into space who laid on a perfect pass for speedster Dom Du Toit to do the rest.  Just as the Australians thought they were beginning to get ascendency, Fiji put their foot on the accelerator, Merewai Cumu taking advantage of a missed line out to break through a tackle and score under the posts. Australia would have to score twice in the final two minutes to keep their title hopes alive. Instead of being overawed by the situation, Caslick again proved her class, throwing a huge cut out ball to Du Toit who pinned her ears back and out sprinted Fiji’s cover defence to make it a two-point ball game with one play remaining. Australia regathered possession off the kick-off and began to build pressure with multiple phases, eventually finding the space in the defence they were desperate for, Emilee Cherry the one to cross giving her side the lead in what was a remarkable display of calmness under immense pressure.

Australia 21 defeated France 17

Australia knew a win over France would hand them their second ever HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series and the occasion didn’t get the better of them, holding their composure as France started the match with all the possession.  Australia was able to secure possession after a French error and they made no mistake from the resulting scrum, Dom Du Toit with first points as she continued her superb try-scoring form in the tournament. Australia went over again moments later when Emilee Cherry found herself unmarked on the sideline. The French looked to get back just before the break, but a forward pass halted their attack, leaving the score 14-0 at the break.

The French side came firing out of the blocks in the second stanza. Their skipper Fanny Horta bashing her way to the try line after her teammate produced a textbook turnover at the breakdown in the previous phase. The home side had two almost immediately after, this time it was Majone Mayans using quick feet to step around the Australians to put her side back within two points with four minutes remaining in the match.  Mayans was hit high by Evania Pelite in the process of scoring, the referee showing Pelite a yellow card for the infringement, leaving the Aussies to defend with just six.  It looked as though heartbreak was on the horizon for the Australians when the French got their third and went ahead through Chloe Pelle. With the French in possession with 30 seconds remaining on the clock Emma Tonegato put her body on the line earning a penalty at the breakdown. The Olympic gold medallist then took off with a quick tap, drawing a defender before linking up with a flying Dom Du Toit who sensed Emilee Cherry on her inside and gave a sensational pass to the Aussie centre who ran 40-metres to score the matchwinner after the bell.  The final score Australia 21, France 17.

Paris Sevens day two results

Australian Women’s Sevens

Cup Quarter Final: Australia 22-19 Fiji

Cup Semi Final: Australia 21-17 France

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Rassie Erasmus and Siya Kolisi laud Springbok character in comeback victory over England

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Siya Kolisi led the Springboks to victory over England in his first Test

The character shown by a team full of inexperienced players and some tactical changes on the field were two of the main reasons Rassie Erasmus felt the Springboks managed to overturn a significant deficit to beat England by 42-39 in the opening Test of the of the Series at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

England started with a bang and raced to a 24-3 lead in the opening quarter, thanks to three converted tries and a penalty goal, but SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby said they made a few tactical adjustments, which stared the comeback.

By the break, the Boks were ahead by 27-24 after a brace of tries by Sbu Nkosi, who was on debut for South Africa, as well as Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk, both of whom were back in green and gold for the first time since 2016.

Aphiwe Dyantyi, also on debut, scored in the second half, and Handre Pollard added four conversions and three penalty goals for a personal haul of 17 points.

“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was worried, because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side,” said Erasmus.

“It certainly could’ve gone from bad to worse, but credit to Siya (Kolisi), Duane (Vermeulen), Beast (Mtawarira) and Handre (Pollard), our senior players, for getting us back on track. Still, we only scraped through in the end and we made too many errors, so there is a lot for us to work on.

“When we managed to keep the ball, England were under the same stress we were early in the game. I’m proud of the guys – they showed character and it’s something we can take forward.”

Kolisi, who captained the Boks for the first time, said: “I was very nervous as we didn’t expect to have such a tough time early in the game, but we have guys who had been in situations like that before.

“Credit to the new caps, because they didn’t panic and showed they just wanted to play, so we decided to take control of the game and it worked.

“Everything came together for us, the nerves were gone, we managed to get into sync and do those things that we know we can do well. We obviously would have wanted to start better today, but the character the guys showed was amazing.”

Erasmus said he expected England to kick more, and they were a bit surprised when the visitors attacked the wide channels with relative ease.

“It was a tactical mistake on my part, but as soon as we realised we needed more width on defence, and the players adapted on the field, things started going our way,” said Erasmus, who admitted that the Boks will have to make a number of “brave decisions” in the next couple of months.

“When you have such a big number of players with very few Test caps, a lot of work will have to be done,” said Erasmus.

“If we had lost, it would’ve created doubt, but it will be a bit easier now to get consistency in selection. Still, we will have to try a few things next week and we will have to make big calls going forward, which probably means we’ll lose some matches, but we have to get players exposed to Test rugby and see if they have what it takes to make it at this level.

“Our replacements all went to the USA last week and I expected them to run out of steam a bit after some time, but all of them made a big impact.

“There were some great individual performances, but we still made too many unnecessary errors and we have a lot to work on. Looking back, we probably got out of jail free today, but just as they could have put us away, we could have put them away.

“Next week’s Test in Bloemfontein will be massive.”

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Billy Vunipola reveals latest injury came from kicking an Aussie Rules ball

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Billy Vunipola has endured an injury-ravaged season.

Billy Vunipola has revealed the reason for his latest injury scare – kicking an Aussie Rules ball.

And the Saracens star, now in South Africa as part of a 34-man England squad, said he initially did not tell his club coaches.

Vunipola has endured an injury ravaged season, with a hamstring problem being the most recent issue, although he made a try-scoring contribution to Saracens’ Premiership final victory over Exeter.

“I trained fully the week before against Wasps (in the play-offs) and I felt really good, but it was my fault,” the powerful number eight said.

“I was doing some AFL kicking and then the hammy went tight before the game.

“I didn’t tell the coaches that, but when I came off at half-time against Wasps I told them. I was like, ‘sorry guys, I was doing AFL kicking’. I stitched myself up there.

“I felt like I was back to normal, and when I feel like I’m back to normal I forget that I was injured and that’s probably why I get injured all the time.

“I had to manage myself a bit better the week after. Now I feel strong again, I had a really good start to the week. Hopefully, next week I will train fully and I will be fine.”

Vunipola has not played Test Rugby since March last year, but he is an integral part of an England group seeking to beat the Springboks in South Africa for the first time since 2000.

England also go into battle in Johannesburg next week on the back of a four-match losing run, having not won since toppling Wales at Twickenham on February 10.

Such a run of results is in stark contrast to the long unbeaten sequence they enjoyed during head coach Eddie Jones’ first 18 games in charge.

But Vunipola added: “It is probably a good thing that we have gone through this tough period because it gives us things we can work on.

“We are almost trying to prove ourselves again, which is probably a better motivator than where do we go from where we were before when we won two Six Nations titles.

“Eddie always drives our constant improvements, and it is better to try and improve when you have lost a few games and it is probably tougher on yourself when you are always winning.

“You probably think you are untouchable, and we are not, and it is a good lesson to learn. Hopefully, we can come together as a team on and off the pitch and really take this tour by the scruff of the neck.”

And Vunipola has no doubt what to expect from a South Africa team now under the coaching direction of former Munster boss Rassie Erasmus.

“We’ve just got to scrap for everything,” he said. “If we’re annoying or making them frustrated, that’s probably the best sign of how up for it we are. It means we are in their faces, otherwise they will just bully us off the park.

“That’s what they used to do really well, and obviously with a new coach coming in they will just go back to how they used to beat other teams: run over them, beat them up, using their big, physical pack to wear you down.

“Hopefully it’s going to be old school, just whose dad is bigger than whose dad. That is the challenge we’ve got ahead of us, and we’ve got to embrace it or we will be on the losing side.”

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