2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens: Women's 2017/18 Series tips past halfway
KITAKYUSHU, JAPAN - APRIL 22: Players of New Zealand celebrate on the podium after winning the HSBC Women's Rugby Sevens Kitakyushu at Mikuni World Stadium Kitakyushu on April 22, 2018 in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The New Zealand Black Ferns 7s team took home their second title in as many weeks, after winning the 2018 Kitakyushu Sevens. It also see’s the series tip past halfway, in a huge season for the International women’s World series.

New Zealand defeated first-time finalists France 24-12, to end two-days of breathtaking rugby at the Mikuni World Stadium. The defending champions, after claiming the Commonwealth games gold medals, they proved too strong and look bound to catch Australia at the top of the series points table.

With just six points separating first from second, Australia can feel the Kiwi women breathing down their necks. It will all lead to more excitement, as the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series heads to Langford, in Canada next month.

2018 Kitakyushu Sevens: The LOWDOWN

Plenty upsets from Day One, with Spain beating the Australians, to Canada not making the Cup quarter-finals. China was relentless, with signs of what to expect from them next season – they have qualified as a core team, in 2018/19.

New Zealand, were a ‘cut above’ the rest. In sublime form, the rotation of the squad from head coach Alan Bunting demonstrated the group depth, of the reigning title holders.

Day Two of the 2018 Kitakyushu Sevens came to a thrilling conclusion. All the teams showed their desire, with some outstanding performances. None so more than China. Surprising many – including Editor Scott Hornell – the invitational side reached the quarter-finals to the roars of delight from the crowd.

Alongside the other ‘Super Powers’ of Team USA and Russia, it shows the focus put into the sevens game, by the worlds most populated country. They will take their form into the Rugby World Cup Sevens, in San Francisco in July this year.

France too, exceeded many teams expectations. This writer presumed they could, but congratulations on the French girls making their first Cup finals place. reached their first final, as the series tipped past halfway

In the end, Australia settled for bronze after beating the Spanish. Russia, who could have gone further, finished fifth with Fijiana seventh. United States took the Challenge Trophy, with the Canadians uncharacteristically finishing a lowly 11th place.

But the last match of the weekend, surely saw the best two sides face-off.

Cup Final: New Zealand 24 France 12

Nippy playmaker Tayla Nathan-Wong created and converted the first try for the Kiwis, showing her value in the final. Fanny Horta made a break for Les Bleus but was caught by Portia Woodman in defence. However, the New Zealand defence couldn’t stop Camille Crassineau from levelling the scores, soon after.

They went to the breather with the Kiwis ahead 12-7, after Theresa Fritzpatrick’s try. With the ten minute finals format, stamina was going to play it’s part at the 2018 Kitakyushu Sevens. The French were in it with the Kiwis showing signs of fatigue. Two full-on weeks of top class rugby sevens is new to this ladies; unlike the men who are used to the back-to-back tourneys.

Penalties began to rack up against the Kiwis, and playmaker Amdee Montserratt levelled the scores with the French sides second touchdown. However, the livewire Portia Woodman showed her pace, to score her 29th try for the season.

Both sides were nearly ‘out on the feet’ with the action. Taking advantage of a small crack in the line, Player of the Final, Nathan-Wong scored the final try of the match. Her side winning, 24-12.

Sarah Goss told worldrugby.org after the final: “The girls stepped up. We’ve had a couple of injuries over the past few weeks so to come away with back-to-back golds is pretty special. We can’t wait to get home and celebrate with our families.

“The girls who played today were outstanding and it just shows the depth we have in our team at the moment.”

2018 Kitakyushu Sevens – Other Results:

Three tries to Vani Pelite, Emma Tonegato and Emilee Cherry gave the Aussies the victory over Spain 19-5, to claim the bronze. It was ‘sweet payback’ for their day one loss. However, the Spanish deserve applause for their grand efforts over the weekend.

Russia took out fifth place, when beating Fiji 30-7. The Fijians defeated them on day one 29-5 so it was unfortunate to reverse the result. Alena Mikhaltsova and Baizat Khamidova were too hot to handle for Fijiana. Ana Naimasi was outstanding for Fiji all weekend. These two sides look destined to battle for more Cup knock-out places over the next two legs of the Sevens Series.

England finished sixth, beating China 36-5 with Deborah Fleming shining for the Roses. Jess Breach continues to grow with Lydia Thompson and Abbie Brown. But the commentators were most impressed by the committed Chinese women. Their best player, was Chen Kayi. A name to watch!

United States defeated the feisty Irish women 24-19, to walk away with the Challenge Trophy. Canada finished poorly in 11th, managing to beat Japan 33-14 in one of their worst tournament outings.

2018 Kitakyushu Sevens: Women’s Series Accolades

HSBC Player of the Final

Tyla Nathan-Wong: “It has been an amazing couple of weeks with the Commonwealth Games and here and we’ve had a bit of adversity with a few of the girls being injured but all the credit to our girls. We played amazing and we really brought it to the final.

I love this tournament and all the competition have stepped up. Spain beating the Aussies today and coming through to the semi-finals and China making the top eight. It shows how amazing women’s rugby is and the growth of it.”

DHL Impact Player of the Tournament

2018 Kitakyushu Sevens ‘Dream Team’

Last Word on Rugby – The ‘Final Verdict’

With two rounds left and the Rugby World Cup Sevens only around the corner, teams are stepping-up. Competition will only get tougher from here, as teams like Spain and China continue making inroads, on the traditional sides like Canada and England.

The range of results on Day One was a ‘sign of the times’.

Day 1 Results #Kitakyushu7s #HSBC7s

Posted by Lynnie Stevens on Saturday, April 21, 2018

Teams will be examining the results from Japan, wanting to make improvements and to settle on combinations. Fitness and rotation is key; which is why New Zealand went back-to-back. They are the best prepared side in 2018, like the Australians were in 2016.

In three weeks, sides meeting again at the Langford Sevens, May 12-13 in the spring air of Canada. LWOR will see you then, for more of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.