‘Gutsy’, ‘brave’: Aussie women survive first-half red card to claim back-to-back tournaments, men go down in final

Australia’s rugby world champs have triumphed in the Cape Town Sevens after holding on bravely when down to just six players to edge a drama-filled final against France.

But it was again a very different story on Sunday (Monday AEDT) for the Aussie men who, having excelled to reach their final, were hammered in the showdown by Argentina.

Pride of place, though, again went to Charlotte Caslick’s outfit who, for the second week running after lifting the Dubai Sevens crown seven days earlier, were a class apart in annexing the title at the same Cape Town venue where they lifted last year’s World Cup.

But they only prevailed after an extraordinary final, clinging on to beat France 29-26 in a pulsating contest which saw star player Maddison Levi play both the hero and villain of the piece, scoring two tries before being shown red for a dangerous shoulder-led tackle.

Australia players celebrate the cup final win over France on day two of the HSBC SVNS at Cape Town Stadium on 10 December, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

Levi, who on Saturday had become the quickest player to reach 100 tries in women’s world series matches, had again shone on Sunday, scoring twice in the 24-14 quarter-final win over Ireland and creating another in the 33-5 semi-final victory over USA.

Levi’s double in the final, which took her tournament-leading tally to nine tries, allied to other first-half scores for Faith Nathan and Sharni Smale, put Australia 22-0 clear and seemingly out of sight.

But the match’s whole complexion changed when she was shown red for her reckless challenge on Camille Grassineau as the French hit back to make it 22-14 by the interval.

Forced to play the entire second half with six, Australia demonstrated grit to hold the French, with newcomer Kaitlin Shave’s lightning break down the left edge earning their key try with two minutes left.

“It was just a really gutsy effort with just six players, super brave from the girls. I’m so proud of them,” said captain Caslick.

2 tries within 3.5 minutes, what a start for @Aussie7s in the final ????#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSCPT pic.twitter.com/x55uNVuNNG

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) December 10, 2023

She said they were playing for key teammate Demi Hayes, who had suffered what had looked a serious non-contact knee injury in the Ireland match.

“We obviously had Demi at the back of our minds out there, we’re hoping she gets a positive result from her scan later,” she said.

Madi Ashby, the player of the final, added: “Oh my god, it broke our hearts seeing her on the ground there, she’s one of our sisters. We wanted to win it for her.”

Osadczuk with the match winner for @lospumas7arg ????#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSCPT pic.twitter.com/AuL8ivjGn9

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) December 10, 2023

In the men’s event, Australia bounced back after their disappointing weekend in Dubai, where they came seventh, by defeating last week’s winners and hosts South Africa 28-0 in the quarter-finals – Nathan Lawson scoring twice – and then downing Olympic champs Fiji 24-7 with four tries in the semis.

But it all went wrong in the final once captain Nick Malouf got a first-half yellow card  for a poor challenge and Argentina went on to roll them over 45-12, featuring seven tries.

The teams will next be in action in their home Perth tournament in six weeks time where the men should have sevens new boy and former Wallabies’ captain Michael Hooper in their ranks.

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