England beat Australia 15-10 in a breathless final at the Hong Kong Stadium to take the second IRB Women’s Sevens Challenge Cup title.
Inspired by two tries from captain Michaela Staniford, England beat the defending women’s Hong Kong champions Canada in their semi final and then beat Australia, who had themselves overpowered USA in the second semi.
Deadlocked at 10-10, the final looked set for extra time, but England worked space for Joanne Watmore to go over for the winner.
“It’s an amazing feeling, I can’t really express it,” said Watmore moments after touching down. “We learnt a few things from Dubai and worked on a few things. We have a few different players in place which gave us the edge in the final. Next stop is London.”
England came up short in Dubai in November, losing to Canada in the final but here captain Michaela Staniford led from the front, including another superb performance in the final.
“It feels amazing (to win in Hong Kong), we have been thinking about it for a long time, it has been a long awaited tournament. To come away and take the Cup is amazing, it feels great, absolutely brilliant.”
England were forced to produce their best by reigning Rugby World Cup Sevens champions Australia, at the end of a tournament which demonstrated that the women’s Sevens Game continues to become more and more competitive.
“It is tough, especially with the amount of teams going semi-pro and pro,” added Staniford. “We are not there just yet but the more teams competing at a level, the more teams that are going away to train harder, is only going to increase the level.
“To come and play a final like that, in front of this many people, that is televised, changes the thoughts on the women’s game, and will hopefully increase the number of followers we have.”
In the Plate competition, on Friday Spain ground out a tight 12-7 win over China on the main Hong Kong Sevens pitch.
Russia beat the Netherlands 5-0 to finish in seventh, and Brazil finished with a win against Hong Kong to end in ninth place and take the Bowl.
Hong Kong Sevens –Day 2 review
Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa booked their place in the Cup quarter finals after maintaining their 100% records in the pool stages of the 2012 Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
Fiji’s superior points difference means they progress as top seeds and will face Argentina, whilst the defending Hong Kong Sevens champions will meet Wales in a repeat of their pool match.
The USA Sevens winners Samoa play South Africa and Australia await England in the other two Cup quarters, whilst Scotland face USA and Kenya will encounter France in the Bowl semis.
Pool A (SAM, ENG, ARG, KEN)
USA Sevens champions Samoa ended proceedings on day with a 14-12 victory against Ben Ryan’s England in the Pool A decider.
Paul Perez scored on the stroke of half time before Alafoti Fa’osiliva’s effort in the second half, but it was Tom Mitchell’s missed conversion after Rob Vickerman had opened the scoring that proved decisive.
Stephan Betham’s side began their Hong Kong Sevens campaign with a 19-7 victory against Kenya thanks to tries from Ken Pisi, Paul Perez and Alatasi Tupou before Afa Aiono scored twice in their 27-0 victory against Argentina.
England are fourth in the World Series standings and got off to a winning start in front of the ex-pat crowd, beating Argentina 19-10 thanks to tries from Dan Norton, Rob Vickerman and Mat Turner.
On day two, Norton completed a hat-trick, taking him level with Frank Halai on 27 tries for the season, as Ben Ryan’s side held on to a narrow 21-17 victory against Kenya.
Argentina finished third after beating Kenya 19-7.
Day one highlights
Pool B (NZL, RSA, WAL, USA)
Current Series leaders and defending Hong Kong Sevens champions New Zealand made it three wins from three after beating South Africa 19-10 in their final pool match to progress to the quarters as Pool B winners.
Earlier, Gordon Tietjens’ side came from 7-0 behind against Wales to win 24-7 after defeating USA 29-5 thanks to another impressive performance from the influential Tomasi Cama on day one.
The 2008/09 World Series winners South Africa beat reigning RWC Sevens champions Wales 10-0 in the second Pool B match, the day’s penultimate match, thanks to tries from Boom Prinsloo and Cecil Afrika, before Afrika scored their third try in their 15-7 victory on day two against USA.
Dan Smith and Richard Smith both scored two tries, and Alex Walker kicked 12 points as Wales finished third in Pool B after a convincing 42-7 victory against USA.
Pool C (FJI, AUS, FRA, SCO)
Fiji defeated Australia 22-5 and France 26-12 on day to maintain their 100% record and finish as Pool C winners. Metuisela Talebula was the hero, scoring two tries in both victories.
In their opening match, Isikeli Tulwainunu Vuruna scored two of Fiji’s seven tries as the side currently lying second in the World Series beat Scotland 39-5.
Allan Fa’alava’au scored Australia’s second hat-trick of the tournament, as they beat Scotland 29-14 to maintain their 100% record after Greg Jeloudev had scored their first against the Dubai Sevens runners-up France in a 31-10 victory.
Scotland finished third in Pool C after coming from 12-0 behind at half time against France, as Sean Kennedy scored with the last play of the match and Colin Gregor kicked the crucial conversion in the 14-12 victory.