South Africa’s hopes of lifting the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 trophy on home turf were ended in stunning style when Ireland’s men emphatically eliminated the hosts on quarter-finals day at the Cape Town Stadium.
The Irish were clinical in punishing Blitzboks errors in the final game of the day, with Jordan Conroy putting the cherry on top of a historic performance with two late tries in a 24-14 victory.
It was Ireland’s first-ever win against South Africa at a RWC Sevens and ensured that Neil Powell’s decorated spell as Blitzboks coach won’t end with a fairytale home victory in his final tournament in charge.
Ireland’s reward is a mouth-watering semi-final against New Zealand on Sunday, after the All Blacks earned a battling win over Argentina to reach the final four.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions Australia edged past France to book a place in the final four where they will face Fiji, who overcame fellow Pacific Islanders Samoa.
In the women’s tournament, the Black Ferns cruised past Ireland with the help of the RWC Sevens’ all-time top try scorer Portia Woodman.
Australia’s women, the top seeds and World Series champions, comfortably beat England as Faith Nathan’s sensational form continued with a hat-trick that took her tournament tally to eight tries.
They will face USA for a place in the final on Sunday after the Americans’ narrow win over Canada, while the Black Ferns Sevens are up against a France side who snatched a dramatic late win against Fiji.
There were big celebrations as Uruguay’s men impressively toppled the USA to reach the Challenge final, while Poland earned their first-ever RWC Sevens victory in the women’s Challenge quarter-finals, before backing it up with a second victory against Spain.
INCREDIBLE IRELAND PROGRESS
A buzzing Cape Town Stadium expected to see the top seeded Blitzboks progress when they came up against an Ireland side that had only beaten them once before, at the Toulouse Sevens in May.
However, it became clear that the Irish were in inspired mood when Mark Roche dotted down the opening try and Mark Smith was denied a second when TMO adjudged him to have made an early tackle before touching down a bobbling ball.
South Africa responded through Muller Du Plessis to draw level before the break, but Harry McNulty restored Ireland’s lead after they stole two Blitzbok lineouts, and Conroy’s blistering pace added to their advantage as he crossed twice before a late Mfundo Mdhlovu consolation.
New Zealand faced a threat to their long RWC Sevens winning run against Argentina, but they managed to come out 12-5 winners from a tense battle and stretch that streak to 12 games.
German Schulz profited from a super Matias Osadczuk offload to go over in the corner for the Pumas, but Scott Curry struck back for the All Blacks before half-time.
It was far from a perfect performance from the Kiwis, but the match was lit up by a moment of brilliance when Moses Leo burst through a tackle to sprint half the pitch and dive over the try line.
There was a moment of concern when the referee had to be replaced after taking a knock in an accidental collision, and Argentina were banging on the door late on but couldn’t take advantage as they knocked on with the final play.
In Australia’s clash with France, neither side budged in a physical first half that saw Jean Pascal Barraque earn a yellow card.
Les Bleus survived the power play period without conceding, but Henry Paterson eventually went over the try line to break the deadlock with the final play.
France immediately struck back after the restart with a stunning team move of interweaving passing and movement finished off by Paulin Riva, but Maurice Longbottom soon punctured the Bleus defence to put the Aussies firmly in control.
Olympic gold medallists Fiji knocked out Samoa to reach the final four, recovering from conceding an early Steve Onosai try to win 21-10.
Jerry Tuwai, Kaminieli Rasaku and Sevuloni Mocenacagi crossed the whitewash for clinical Fiji, before Onosai bagged a consolation second late on to take his personal RWC Sevens 2022 tally to five tries.
FAVOURITES AUSTRALIA IN HOT FORM
Australia underlined their top seed status with an impressive 35-5 win over England in the opening quarter-final of the Saturday evening session.
Speedster Nathan, who became the first player to score five tries in a single match against Madagascar on Friday, crossed the whitewash twice as the Aussie Sevens raced into a 21-0 half-time lead.
Emma Uren crashed over the line to get England back in it after the break, but Nathan soon pinned her ears back to complete her hat-trick and take her personal try tally to a tournament-best eight.
New Zealand’s quest to defend their RWC Sevens title is still on track after a 26-0 win over Ireland set up a semi-final clash with France.
Niall Williams scored the only try of an error-strewn first half, but the Black Ferns’ quality showed after the break when Woodman ran from under her own posts to score her 20th RWC Sevens try, an all-time record.
They completed the job with tries from Alena Saili and Shiray Kaka, overcoming their initial inaccuracies to take a comfortable win.
A last-gasp Joanna Grisez try earned France a thrilling 19-14 win over Fiji in a dramatic and eventful quarter-final.
Ana Maria Namiasi danced through the defence as Fiji drew first blood against a sloppy French side, but Camille Grassineau pulled one back with the final play and Les Bleues came out after the break a team transformed.
Jade Ulutule’s try was cancelled out by Naimasi’s second and Fijiana had the advantage when they were awarded a penalty with the clock in the red, but France turned the ball over and Grisez went storming down the left wing to win it.
North American neighbours USA and Canada faced off for the first time ever at a RWC Sevens, and it was the United States who edged to a scrappy 10-7 win in a brutal encounter.
Jaz Gray, who scored a hat-trick in the Round of 16 against Poland, continued her fine form by crossing the try line to put the Americans in front.
A converted Keyara Wardley try edged Canada into a two-point lead after the break but, as the penalty count stacked up, Ilona Maher powered over the try line between two defenders to score the winning try.
URUGUAY ON FIRE
It was a day to remember for Uruguay in the Challenge bracket, as they took two big scalps to reach the final.
The South Americans started with a 19-12 win over Canada in the quarter-finals, before edging the USA 21-19 in the following round to spark emotional celebrations. The Americans had reached the last four by beating Wales 33-5.
Felipe Etcheverry scored the 250th try of the weekend in the first half as Uruguay built a nine-point lead, and a piece of magic from American great Perry Baker wasn’t enough to mount a late comeback.
Uruguay will face England in Sunday’s Challenge final, after a sensational day of form from Tony Roques’ side, who beat Chile 35-0 before taking down Kenya, running in six tries in a 36-0 win. The Kenyans earlier earned an impressive 25-4 win over Scotland.
It was a good day for South American rugby all round, as Chile scored a last-gasp converted try to take their placement match against Scotland to extra-time, where Diego Warnken won it with a drop kick penalty.
The Chileans will play Canada on Sunday to decide who takes 13th place, after the Canadians beat Wales 33-19.
POLAND AND MADAGASCAR WOMEN MAKE HISTORY
Poland enjoyed a historic day in Cape Town as they earned their first-ever RWC Sevens win, coming from behind to beat China 20-14 in the Challenge quarter-finals.
They then went one better by defeating Spain 19-10 to reach the final, where they will face Japan. The Spanish made it to the last four by beating Madagascar 12-0 earlier in the day.
The Japanese overcame Brazil 19-10 in their semi-final as Wakaba Hara scored two tries to take her tally for the day to three, having crossed the whitewash earlier in a close 14-12 win over South Africa.
Brazil kicked off Friday in hot form by thrashing Colombia 33-0, but they couldn’t carry that form into their semi and will now face Spain in the 11/12 place match on Sunday.
Debutants Madagascar suffered their third defeat of the weekend when they lost 36-5 to China in a placement match, but there were joyous scenes when Jinah Kelly Razanamahefa somersaulted over the line to score the African nation’s first ever RWC Sevens try.
South Africa speedster Nadine Roos put on a show for the home crowd by scoring four tries in a 27-0 placement win over Colombia.
GERMANY AND UGANDA LIGHT UP BOWL
Germany will face Uganda in the Bowl final on Sunday after the two sides won back-to-back knockout games in the battle to be the best of the rest.
The Germans bounced back from an opening day extra-time defeat to Chile by defeating Portugal 21-14, before scoring a winning try with the final play to beat Tonga 17-12 in the semi-finals.
Tonga, who defeated Jamaica 17-0 to reach the last four, held a seven-point lead going into the final minute, but Germany scored two tries in two minutes to turn the game on its head at the death, Bastian van der Bosch touching down the winning score on his 50th tournament appearance.
Uganda progressed to the semis with a 12-0 win over Korea before earning a hard-fought 14-5 win over Hong Kong, who beat Zimbabwe 28-0 earlier in the day to reach the last four.
Portugal and Korea will face off in the 21/22 play-off on Sunday after beating Jamaica (31-7) and Zimbabwe (21-19) respectively. The losing sides will meet in the 23/24 place match.
DAY THREE SCHEDULE
The final day of RWC Sevens action kicks off at 08:30 local time with men’s placement matches, which continue until the Bowl final between Germany and Uganda at 09:36.
Championship placement matches in both men’s and women’s events follow until the semi-finals kick off.
The women are up first with New Zealand v France at 12:07, and Australia then face USA at 13:05.
The men’s Championship semi-finals are intertwined with the women’s: Ireland face New Zealand at 12:35 and Australia are up against Fiji at 13:33.
Challenge placement matches are next up, before the two finals in the second-tier event: Poland v Japan for the women’s trophy at 15:21 and Uruguay v England for the men at 17:04.
The placements from 5-8 will be decided next, before two Bronze finals, the women at 19:01 and men at 19:25.
Finally, the action concludes with the showpiece Championship finals. The women’s final is at 20:17, followed by the men’s final at 20:54.