It was their sixth consecutive World Series finals appearance, and fourth HSBC Dubai Sevens title for the Black Ferns Sevens women’s team of New Zealand. A fantastic feat, which the team earned via their supreme style and all around game management.
They scored four-tries-to-two to beat Canada in the Gold Medal playoff, 24-14. They did it in style too, in front of a very vocal crowd at the 7even Stadium, in the United Arab Emirates.
Taylah Nathan-Wong scored two tries which also earned her the Player of the Final award. She was among a core group who contributed equally – hardly missing the speed of injured Portia Woodman and power of injured Niall Williams. The group gelled well, never missing a beat over the opening two days of the mixed tournament.
In other results, Australia had to fight to the very last minute, with Lily Dick crossing over late for the winning try against the United States, 26-21 for the bronze. Russia overcame England and finished fifth, with the French defeating the Irish for seventh place.
China who lost all three of their games on Day One, grabbed two massive victories over Fiji and Spain in the final knockout matches, to win the Challenge Trophy. Fijiana continued their slump just managing to beat Kenya for 11th place to hold some respectability.
Plenty of positives throughout the tournament, where the majority of teams will learn from their experience, as the battle for Olympic qualifications continues in the next leg of the series; the HSBC Sydney Sevens.
In regards to individual highlights – Michaela Blyde added another milestone to her impressive career, when she became only the fifth women (and youngest) to score 100 tries in the Women’s Sevens Series.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) November 30, 2018
2018 HSBC Dubai Sevens: Day 2 – the Lowdown
New Zealand continues to build with the squad they have, that even without two prominent players, they still won the tournament like the champion side that they are. It’s the sentiment that skipper Sarah Goss, and Nathan-Wong (below) shared with World Rugby media after the final.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 30, 2018
What separates New Zealand from other teams is a combination of things. Their ability to react positively to all attacking situations benefits them every time they run out onto the field. Positive play can create space, and when there is space, a player like Gayle Broughton will maximize them.
From Kelly Brazier to Ruby Tui, the current group are polished and work together in a manner that improves all positions on the field. Attack from any place on the field means for the entire seven minutes, they are ‘ready to roll’.
Improvements imperative from most HSBC Women’s sides
Australia, who have had mixed results in the first two rounds of the season, need to shape up. Injuries within the squad are every team’s problem, and they cannot be used as an excuse for their inconsistency. Australia has the depth, the knowledge and ability to compete – building self-confidence is all they need. Sariah Paki had a great debut, along with Lily Dick who scored the final try against a formidable US team, for the bronze medal.
Canada with their improved consistency, sees them jump up to the second spot on the overall points table. The Canadians and Americans will have no problem taking advantage of Australia’s inconsistency. It will be a struggle, with all teams knowing that reaching the final is only one half of the objective.
Facing down New Zealand is where every side has to retain some of their fitness. Hitting them with 100% is the only way to subdue the title leading team.
The top four finishes in the 2018/19 Series this season, will qualify automatically to the important 2020 Olympics.
Of the chasers, Fijiana management has to recall their former Sevens stars to get their season back in order. They are on a downward spiral, which will eventually lead to losing their core status. Fiji Rugby must prioritize remedies to safeguard the sides place on the World Series.
Developing nation China continues to grow each tournament, displaying a more disciplined approach to the game. They came out with the right attitude on Day Two – their goal for Sydney must be to perform like that from Day One onward. The Chad Shepherd coached side can only get better with every minute played.
Some great shots on day one of the #Dubai7s
The sweet sweet sight of rugby sevens in the sun ? pic.twitter.com/1FKVYpfKy4
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 29, 2018
Ireland had a great opening day with two wins but, disappeared on Day Two. More is needed from those women, to match the success of the men’s XVs team. They, together with European counterparts England, Spain and Russia, need to be on song for the entire weekend.
2018 Dubai Sevens Accolades
DHL Impact Player of the Tournament
Charlotte Caslick deserved the award, in helping their young group to the third spot. Caslick is a world better, overall disciplines of the game.
She leads Sarah Goss and Michaela Blyde, in the chase to be the Impact player of the season.
A great selection from the broadcast team although, Last Word on Rugby would also like to mention the effort of others who don’t appear here. Ilona Maher of USA, Hu Yu of China, Ana Maria Naimasi of Fiji, Lucy Mulhall of Ireland and rookie, Sariah Paki of Australia.
2018 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series table standings
North Americans looking to overtake Oceania dominance in the Series, with Russia and France from Europe working hard in midfield – but they must not allow a gap to extend after the Sydney leg.
Here's how the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series table looks after two events, as @BlackFerns lead the way with 40 points@BlackFerns – 40@RugbyCanada – 34@USARugby – 32@Aussie7s – 28@FFRugby – 22 pic.twitter.com/iMG0TbLrXd
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) November 30, 2018
The Last Word on Dubai, and World Rugby
It has been two incredible days of Sevens rugby for women, that saw the Black Ferns Sevens bag their second title of the year. Fans will be very grateful to World Rugby for finally removing an annoying ‘geo-block’ from the Livestream feed. That is enabling more viewers to watch the action.
Of those, they would have just watched the two and half hours of live women’s rugby sevens coverage (that they usually have to subscribe to on TV) and honestly, we are just getting our breath back!
With Australia struggling, the Sevens Series looks unpredictable for most sides unless you are facing the strength of the Black Ferns sevens team. The mental hurdle; as occurred in 2016/17 when Australia won four straight events, is hard to overcome. But New Zealand did it, and that example should help others to replicate that change in fortune. The game can be won on the field, but can be envisaged by teams prior to the match start, if they believe in themselves.
All teams have to display that confidence and aim for the top.
The season now heads to Sydney Australia next year, and if teams want ito be a part of the action, then it is where they need to step up. Perform to your potential, and work together to start the new year off with a bang.
“Main photo credit”
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