The Australian Women’s Sevens team has won the Rugby World Cup in Cape Town after a thrilling two-point victory over New Zealand in the Final.
The win follows their HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title, and their Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, giving the team a historic “Triple Crown”, and establishing it as one of Australia’s greatest sporting teams.
The Australian Men, also World Series Champions, finished the Rugby World Cup in a credible fourth position, after going down to eventual champions Fiji at the Semi-Final stage.
Played between fierce rivals, Australia and New Zealand, the Women’s Final did not disappoint.
The Black Fern Sevens were first to open the scoring, with Australia hitting back immediately with two tries to Maddison Levi and another to Faith Nathan.
After New Zealand’s Niall Williams was yellow-carded for two minutes, Levi completed a Rugby World Cup Final hat-trick, giving Australia a 24-10 lead.
Wave after wave of New Zealand attack followed, with the Australians resisting, before the Black Fern 7s finally cracked the defence to set up a grandstand finish.
Another period of sustained pressure saw Alena Saili score two minutes after the siren to bring the score back to 24–22, before Tenika Willison’s conversion attempt sailed wide to confirm Australia’s win.
Sharni Williams was named Player of the Final, while Maddison Levi scored three tries, and Faith Nathan was the top try-scorer for the tournament.
“We spoke a lot today about the team that won the first World Cup in 2009,” superstar Charlotte Caslick said.
“The women in that team paved the way for our program – we played for them and all the Sevens’ members past, present and future.
“Hopefully in three or four cycles, girls will be talking about us and what we achieved this year, and continue on the legacy of Australian Women’s Sevens which is pretty awesome.”
Caslick’s fellow co-captain Demi Hayes said the freshly minted Rugby World Cup Champions still wanted more.
“It’s so exciting for our group, everyone back home, our families and the whole of Australia – hopefully we’ve done all of them proud.
“It ['the Triple Crown'] has never been done before, so to take that home is amazing.
“They are a group of young ones and there are even more coming through at the moment – it’s so exciting to get the three wins under their belt and to take it forward into the Olympic year in 2024.”
Though the Australian Men’s Sevens fought valiantly, they were ultimately beaten by Fiji in the Semi-Final, 14 - 38.
Captain Nick Malouf scored the first try for Australia, but Fiji proved too elusive to subdue for long.
A yellow card to Josh Turner gave Fiji the chance to cement their lead as Iosefo Masi snatched an intercept on the half-time siren.
After he served his two minutes off the field, Turner secured Australia’s second try, but successive crosses from Jeremaia Matana and Viwa Naduvalo sealed Fiji’s victory.
The Australian side faced Ireland in the Bronze Final – a nail-biting contest that saw both teams break even several times.
Nathan Lawson and Rookie of the Year Corey Toole both scored tries, but Ireland captain Harry McNulty dived over in the final minute to secure the win for Ireland, and see Australia finish the tournament in fourth.
“We’re bitterly disappointed to not be walking away with a medal from the Rugby World Cup Sevens,” captain Nick Malouf said.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to be on the podium but just didn’t play our best Rugby.
“We have a few weeks to reflect as we rest up in preparation for next season and the whole team understands there’s plenty for us to achieve in the future.”
Coach John Manenti said the Men’s squad could be proud of a historic season for the program but would not be satisfied.
“The Men’s Sevens have come so far this season, but we still have a long way to go
“I’m still so incredibly proud of the team’s performance at the World Series.
“We let ourselves down at times today, but we’ll have a break and come back better for it.”