2018/19 HSBC USA Women's Sevens: 7 things learned from the opening round
The USA and New Zealand teams shake hands before the championship game of the HSBC USA Women's Sevens tournament at Infinity Park on Sunday, October 21, 2018 in Glendale, Colorado. (Photo by Chet Strange / AFP) (Photo credit should read CHET STRANGE/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2018/19 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series kicked off in style last weekend, with the New Zealand Black Ferns 7s winning the first of six rounds in Glendale, CO, the HSBC USA Women’s Sevens.

They overcame a feisty United States side in the final of the HSBC USA Sevens 33-7. Having to come from behind, after the hosts scored first. Yet the World Champions were a class above them and eased away to a morale-boosting win.

Even while it was the Kiwis fourth consecutive Series title, and leaves them unbeaten in 33 games -they ‘tripped up’ in the opening round of 2017/18, and it cost them badly in the end. With a more positive start to the current season, it will take a lot from any of the other core Women’s Series teams’ to hold back the ‘Sevens Sisters’.

2018/19 HSBC USA Women’s Sevens: 7 things learned from the opening round

With the Kiwi team still in a dominant mood, the only time they were tested was in the semifinal. Canada had a terrific defence that was nearly able to withstand the all-around game of New Zealand….before a huge counter-attack was finished by Niall Williams.

In the Cup final, Naya Tapper scored first for the Eagles but Portia Woodman leveled the scores before the end of the opening half. She grabbed another two, to bring her tally for this first tournament to a huge 10 tries. Niall Williams and Sarah Goss (see main picture) scored the other tries, to cap off a very good start for the squad.

In speaking after the weekend, Goss said, “We are just really pleased, we knew that the last world series beginning stung us a bit and if we wanted to continue the success, we have to be dominant in every single game. I thought the girls showed that over the last couple of games.

“We know that we want to go to Tokyo and we don’t want to leave it until 2020, so if we are to qualify, it was going to have to start with this tournament,” was the New Zealand captain Sarah Goss’s response to questions over her sides motivation at the USA Sevens last weekend.

In other results; Canada thrashed France 28-0 to claim the bronze, and look to be a strong unit in 2018/19. Australia – after losing their Cup quarterfinals game to USA, finished fifth by just piping the feisty Irish. Russia finished seventh, with England ending up in eighth place – not where the Emily Scarrat led team, want to be.

Spain were able to claim with the Challenge Trophy by overcoming a well prepared Fiji. Newcomers China ended the weekend sitting on 11th spot, and Mexico [the invitational side for the weekend] taking the wooden spoon; but even more experience.

7 things learned from opening round of 2018/19 Sevens Series

7 – Ilona Maher of the United States will be the one to watch this season

6 – Unless they bring back their experienced Sevens players, Fiji will struggle all season to break into the Cup semifinals

5 – the United States and France will be out for more wins against the ‘big two’ of Australia and New Zealand

4 – Ruby Tui continues to impress and the younger Kiwi girls will learn from her work ethics.  She’s not a prolific try scorer (like Portia Woodman or Michaela Blyde) but her work around the park and provider role, makes her a standout player.

3 – Australia need to get their groove back before Dubai. For them, the Oceania Sevens is the perfect place to start

2 – Can someone stop the work rate of Alena Mikhaltsova of Russia? She has been consistent in the past two seasons; kind of like Sarah Goss, as players who give it their all in every game.

1 – Can the Black Ferns 7s be stopped?? On paper, they are full of stars. A consistent standard that makes them look almost unstoppable. Growing in confidence and developing a camaraderie within the squad, that could make the entire 12 women squad near-unbeatable.

The clear evidence is, that they will definitely set new standards and trends in the modern rugby sevens game, that all teams must aspire to emulate.

HSBC USA Women’s Sevens – the Verdict

The Black Ferns 7s are in another level, and will be hard to beat them. The Alan Bunting coached side seem to be growing in form, while vitally for the future improving their wider squad, to fill in when needed and to continue the Sevens Sisters legacy.

Australia and Canada will want to step up, with the United States and France the underdogs that might reach finals, through solid pool play to qualify on the right-side of the draw. That is a key for sides positioned from 4-8. They need a good draw, go unbeaten and learn to control their destiny, if they wish to compete – and claim maximum points.

Spain and Fijiana need more depth with the English and Irish needing more consistency. Meanwhile, China will only get better with more games against their belts (this reporter could imagine them reaching yet more finals; like they did in Japan earlier this year).

So all the teams must get into top gear quickly, from Day One. So the next leg of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is the time to ‘flick that switch’.

2018 HSBC Dubai Women’s Sevens – see the draw and Pools below:

Kenya are the invitational side for the next round, and for the game to continue to grow, and second African side must find some success. The huge market of Africa, South America, and Asia must feel that they can display skills and enjoy success on the world stage.

That will boost even further, participation and the upward trend of rugby sevens, and especially in the competitive Women’s Sevens Series.

“Main photo credit”
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