Australia survive Levi red card, wild Final to claim Cape Town title

Sun, Dec 10, 2023, 5:08 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Aussie Sevens have survived a red card and multiple injuries to take out Cape Town. Photo: World Rugby
The Aussie Sevens have survived a red card and multiple injuries to take out Cape Town. Photo: World Rugby

Australia have produced a heroic effort to take out the Cape Town title with a 29-26 win over France in the Final.

For the second weekend in a row, the Aussies were forced to deal with several setbacks and a red card against the French before finding a way to get the job done.

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Superstar Maddison Levi was sensationally sent from the field just before half-time after a high shot, having scored a double in a first-half blitz. This was compounded by an injury to Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea as France hunted for their first trophy.

Demi Hayes was already in the stands with a knee injury suffered earlier in the day, leaving the Aussies facing a titanic battle defending the entire second half down a player.

22-year-old Kaitlin Shave proved the hero, scoring the winning try with two minutes to go as they held in for their first title in Cape Town, one of the few events they hadn't claimed.

"It was a really gutsy effort from the girls," captain Charlotte Caslick said after the match.

"Finishing the game with six players, we played France last week and also had a red card so to do that two weeks in a row is super brave from the girls. I'm just so proud of them."

It looked like the Australians were going to run away with the Final as they dominated France in the opening five minutes.

The blitz started through flyer Maddison Levi, adding another clip to the highlight reel with a great solo effort.

From here, the pressure of the Aussie defence shone as they strangled France. Pilfers from Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea and Player of the Final Madison Ashby inside the French half allowed for instant counter-attacking and tries to Faith Nathan and Sharni Smale.

When France dropped the ball close to their line and Levi went in for her second, it was suddenly a 22-0 lead for the Commonwealth Games champions.

However, France refused to surrender in their quest for a first title. Anne-Cécile Ciofani put them on the board before the break with a nice piece of individual skill.

This is where the game turned on its head as Ciofani crossed for a second deep into first-half extra time as Australia had to defend with six following an injury to Lefau-Fakaosilea.

As players prepared to head into half-time, the TMO found Maddi Levi to have hit Camille Grassineau high as the playmaker threw the final pass. Levi was sent off as France reduced the margin to eight at the break.

World Cup star Caroline Droulin took advantage of the space with a perfect kick for Carla Neisen as France controlled the second half, looking destined for victory.

In desperate need of a spark, rookie Shave announced herself on the Sevens circuit. The flyer backed herself and beat her defender with a great in and out for the try with two minutes remaining.

The game wasn't over as Joanna Grisez sprinted away for the instant response but the Australians were able to control the restart and boot it out for an emotional title celebration.

“I’m speechless at the moment. The girls came over and gave me a big heart-filled hug and I just started bawling my eyes out," Player of the Final Ashby said.

“…Our coaches like to call it TnT so all that work at training helped. We prepare for everything and playing with six, we prepared the whole block for that.”

"We always fight for each other and the last minute of the first half really took it out of everyone so to keep going in the second half was really good," Caslick added.

"To win here and go back-to-back, we haven't done that in a while so it just sets our season up really well."

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