France, Canada stun Aussie women in Vancouver despite Levi heroics, Dupont shines on debut in Olympics statement

Despite Maddison Levi almost getting her side out of jail twice, Australia’s women’s side have suffered a disappointing final day at the Vancouver Sevens by going down to France 21-19 in their semi-final before losing to host-nation Canada 19-14 in the bronze medal match.

Levi, who missed the start of the tournament because of a suspension, was back to her best as she finished off a superb try to score more than a minute into stoppage time against France on Monday morning AEDT.

But Dominque du Toit, whose brilliant left-to-right cut-out pass put the speedster away, couldn’t add the extra two points from out wide to send the knockout match into extra time.

Du Toit, Australia’s most improved player, was naturally devastated after missing the conversion as she “sorry” to her teammates following the miss.

Check out Ciofani on her way to the try line ????‍????#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSVAN | @FranceRugby

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) February 25, 2024

She need not have been, with du Toit regularly asked to clean up Australia’s untidy play in recent months, including against France in their semi-final.

“We had our opportunities, right? And it was going either way,” veteran Sharni Smale told RugbyPass. “We’d score, they’d score.

“It comes down to those tough matches to really take those opportunities and make something of it.

“We faced adversity in Perth and we’re facing it again here so it’s really down to discipline for us. That was our keyword coming in here and we probably haven’t executed that how we wanted to.

“This is footy and sevens is brutal. Sometimes you can learn from them, that’s our motto, ‘you’re either winning or you’re learning.’

“We’ll go out there and we’ll learn from that. These things happen.”

Australia’s Kaitlin Shave was one of her side’s best in Canada, but the World Rugby Sevens rookie couldn’t steer her side into the final after going down to France at BC Place on February 25, 2024 in Vancouver. (Photo by Christopher Morris/Getty Images)

Earlier, Madison Ashby, who copped a three-match ban earlier in the tournament, scored a fabulous solo try as Les Bleus fell for her dummy.

But for the rest of the first half Australia struggled to break the French line, as they forced the women into gold into errors through their rush defence and physicality.

Tries to Seraphine Okemba and Camille Grassineau saw the French take a 14-7 lead, before Levi did what she so often does by brushing away Anne-Cecile Ciofani and then showing her raw pace and powe to score.

Ciofani once again gave France a converted try lead when she scored in the 10th minute as she stepped past Lily Dick and Charlotte Caslick, before Levi stormed onto a superb du Toit pass to score.

Check out Ciofani on her way to the try line ????‍????#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSVAN | @FranceRugby

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) February 25, 2024

Australia’s tough day continued as Canada gave the home fans something to cheer about.

The excitement started early for Canada, as speedster Krissy Scurfield burnt Australia to give the home side a 7-0 lead.

Ashby did what she did earlier on day three by scoring a long-range try after fooling the Canadian defence.

But without the physical and explosive presence of Bienne Terita for the tournament, Australia’s desire to use width routinely swallowed up by the Canadian defence.

Two quick tries to Chloe Daniels and Charity Williams turned the tables on Australia, before Levi got Australia back to within five points in the final minute. But the home side’s defence once again held up, as Canada sealed a memorable third-place.

New Zealand will host France in the final.

Meanwhile, Australia’s men’s team had a disastrous tournament after winning just one of five matches.

Without livewire Maurice Longbottom, Australia lacked potency in attack and looked flat all weekend.

After going down in all three pool matches to a much-improved Samoan side (31-7), the USA (26-21) at the death and France (31-5), John Manenti’s side scraped home against Spain (19-14) before losing their ninth-placed match against South Africa (24-7).

Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is in line to make his first start for Australia next weekend in Las Angeles, as he tries to push his selection case ahead of the Olympics.

But all the attention on the men’s side of the draw was on how Antoine Dupont, the 2021 World Rugby player of the year, would transition back to the sevens game as he tries to make France’s team for the Paris Olympics.

A very happy @Dupont9A with the winning try????????#HSBCSVNS | #HSBCSVNSVAN

— HSBC SVNS (@SVNSSeries) February 25, 2024

Having burnt Australia during their pool match, Dupont showed off his immense class by steering them into the semi-finals.

Not only was his defence and ability at the ruck on show, the master halfback was at his cunning best as he played the short side from a scrum to score at the death against Ireland to lead France into the semi-finals.

New Zealand won their semi-final 28-26, but Dupont once again showed his quality, coming off the bench, as he did most of the weekend, to help France claw their way back into the contest by scoring two late tries.

New Zealand, buoyed by the returns of Sam Dickson and Brad Weber, will take on World Series leaders Argentina in the final.

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