With one round of pool matches remaining, five teams have already secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with Australia and USA also booking their coveted tickets to Paris 2024.
Australia, New Zealand, France, Fiji and USA have already qualified for the quarter-finals of the first-ever Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with a round to spare.
The line-up will be completed on Saturday with the third and final pool match for each team, followed by the quarter-final action.
With the Black Ferns Sevens having qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics in Vancouver, Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists Australia and USA have now joined them following their passage to the quarter-finals in Hong Kong, making it impossible for them to fall out of the top four qualification spots in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 standings.
France’s Montserrat Amédée had the honour of scoring the first try of the maiden women’s World Series tournament in Hong Kong during their 38-7 victory over Japan. In the heat and humidity, the rain quickly came and went without dampening the enthusiasm of the fans inside Hong Kong Stadium.
POOL A: NEW ZEALAND MERCILESS
A tight match between Canada and Great Britain, scoreless at half-time and marked by a series of knock-ons on a slippery pitch, was settled by Heath Cowell’s try in the 10th minute.
New Zealand, bidding for a fifth successive Cup title in a season for the first time, didn’t give any favours to invitational team Hong Kong China, who were making their World Series debut. Stacey Waaka never lost her legendary smile as she scored a hat-trick in a comprehensive 50-0 victory in the first-ever meeting between the teams.
The Black Ferns Sevens were equally impressive against Great Britain in the final women’s match of day one, recording their sixth straight win of the 2023 Series against Great Britain with Shiray Kaka and Risi Pouri-Lane both crossing for braces in the 43-0 win.
POOL B: AUSTRALIA ON TOP
Ireland were unable to taste victory in Allan Temple-Jones’ first game as coach, having replaced the Munster-bound Aiden McNulty, as they slipped to a 17-7 loss to Fiji. Stacey Flood had given them the lead at half-time, but three second-half tries – the first within 20 seconds of the restart through Raijieli Daveua – were enough to see Fiji through to an opening victory.
Charlotte Caslick and Maddison Levi both scored braces as Australia established a 43-0 lead against a Brazil side finding it difficult to defend against the world champions, although Thalia Costa ensured that the South Americans got on the scoreboard with a late try. Levi’s double took her to 46 for the Series, a record already for an Australian player and only six behind the women’s Series record set by Portia Woodman with 52 in the 2014-15 season.
Fiji backed up their win over Ireland with another against Brazil, thanks to braces by Meredani Qoro and Adi Vani Buleki before Gabriela Lima scored a late consolation try.
In their final match of the day, Australia had to work hard to overcome an Ireland side that was not about to go down easily. The 19-12 victory sends Australia not only into the quarter-finals, but also to the Olympic Games in Paris.
POOL C: FRANCE AND USA PROGRESS
France showed their strength from the start by beating Japan 38-7 in a match where Montserrat Amédée and Séraphine Okemba crossed twice.
The Women’s Eagles recorded their eighth consecutive win over Spain with a 35-7 victory, including a brace from Kristi Kirshe in the first three minutes of the game and a few dance moves from Ariana Ramsey celebrating her first-ever try in her second Series tournament.
France then achieved their highest score against Spain with a 45-0 win – bettering the 43-0 in Seville last year. Les Bleues’ charge began after just 30 seconds with the first of two tries from captain Carla Niesen and despite the weather conditions, France’s play was precise with a total of seven tries.
Japan raced out of the blocks against the USA, scoring a brace by Wakaba Hara in the first three minutes before the Women’s Eagles turned the tide through Kristi Kirshe and Naya Tapper. A great dummy by Yume Hirano brought the Sakura Sevens to within two points with three minutes to go, but Kris Thomas’s late try made certain of victory, 26-17 to book their place in the quarter-finals and also on the plane to Paris 2024.
In the remaining Pool A matches, Hong Kong China will continue their learning curve against Great Britain, while Canada will be looking to avoid a 19th straight defeat against New Zealand.
In Pool B, Ireland will be looking for a 14th successive win against Brazil and Australia will face Fiji for the first time in the pool stages this season.
Finally, in Pool C, Spain will be looking to win their first pool match since the Cape Town tournament in December when they take on Spain, while the USA’s meeting with France will determine who finishes top of the pool.