Australia claimed a first-ever Cape Town title, and their second HSBC SVNS 2024 series win in a row, with a gutsy win over France in the showpiece final.
Dubai champions Australia added the Cape Town crown to their sevens collection on Sunday – but they did it the hard way, after Maddison Levi was sent off for a high tackle at the end of the first half.
On a dramatic finals day in Cape Town, Michaela Blyde became the second woman in series history to reach the 200-try mark, but a week after their 41-match winning streak was ended by Australia in Dubai, the Black Ferns Sevens were outperformed by France in the semi-finals at DHL Stadium.
The first person to congratulate Blyde on reaching the milestone? The first woman to pass that figure, team-mate Portia Woodman-Wickliffe.
Last week in Dubai, Australia survived three minutes in the semi-final against France with six players following a red card for Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea. In Cape Town, they survived the entire second half a player down to claim a first-ever title in South Africa at the end of a dramatic final that finished 29-26.
Levi was sent off for a high tackle at the end of a first period that lasted three minutes beyond the seven. They had raced into a 22-0 lead in the first six minutes, before Les Bleues’ got on the scoreboard.
But a double for Anne-Cécile Ciofani in the extended first half, and a third for Carla Neisen pulled France back to within three. Kaitlin Shave then put Australia out of sight, just as Levi had in Dubai the previous Sunday, despite Joanna Grisez’s late, late score.
Winning captain Charlotte Caslick said: “It was a really gutsy effort, finishing the game with only six players. We played France last week and also had a red card. To do that two weeks in a row it was just so brave from the girls.
“We love coming to Cape Town, so to win here and go back to back – we haven’t done that for a really long time – it’s set our season up really well.”
Caslick and Isabelle Nasser had earlier both scored twice in the semi-final, as Australia eased into the final with a 33-5 win over USA; after making it 15 quarter-final wins in the last 16 appearances with their 29th victory in a row over Ireland, a 24-14 result.
And France held off a ferocious New Zealand fightback, even scoring a desperately needed try when reduced to six players, to win just a third sevens series semi-final in their history, as they beat the Black Ferns Sevens 24-12.
Tries from Ciofani, Chloe Jacquet and Lili Dezou were enough to get them to the final four, despite a late try from Fiji’s Reapi Ulunisau, which dragged the scores back to 19-17.
Jorja Miller touched down for just the second time in Cape Town, and Blyde added a 201st try as New Zealand beat USA 19-7 to finish the weekend in third place.
The third try-scorer in the decider, Risi Pouri-Lane, said: “We came out here to win overall, but to be able to finish like this, on a win. We know we’ve got more in us. It’s a long season ahead, so we’ll keep building.”
Earlier, Blyde’s 200th series try, which helped New Zealand beat Canada 41-0, was not her most eye-catching effort. But it was fully earned, as she fought her way through two tacklers to the line.
“It was only fitting that it was the probably hardest try I’ve ever scored in my life and it had to be the 200,” Blyde said afterwards. “It’s been a goal of mine for a while. The next one is to be in front of Portia, but that might take a while, if she doesn’t retire before me.”
Meanwhile, USA captain Naya Tapper scored the first and the last try, as they booked their place in the last four with a 19-12 win over a much-improved Great Britain.
Ulunisau rushed over on the cusp of full-time as Fiji came from behind to beat Canada – with Olivia Apps sent off for a high tackle – 19-17 in the fifth-place play-off.
Ireland finished seventh, after seeing off Great Britain 17-5.
Marina Fioravanta’s after-the-hooter try ensured Brazil ended their Cape Town challenge in ninth place, as they came from behind to beat Japan 15-14 under the hot afternoon sun.
Injury-hit South Africa finished bottom of the table, despite going ahead early in their play-off against Spain. But Ayanda Malinga’s converted early try was the only high spot as the hosts lost 21-7, after opening their day with a 27-7 defeat against Japan.