Australia’s 26-10 result over the big-hearted Chinese challengers in Tokyo has given the women’s rugby sevens team a two-win start to the Olympics.
Beating China and Japan (48-0) on Thursday was always going to be the easy end of the draw before a truer test arrives on Friday morning against the USA (11.30am).
“Obviously, we wanted to come out and put our best foot forward. We’ve been preparing for a long time so that (winning) really builds confidence for us because we haven’t been able to play (tournaments) for a long time,” co-captain Sharni Williams said.
“Friday is a different day. This is sevens so anything can happen.
“It’s good to get continuity on the field, build that belief, because we have a couple of debutants and girls who haven’t played finals before.
“We train a lot but against each other so you know all the plays. Against teams who don't know your plays, things open up and you have to build that confidence.”
The Aussies were able to physically dominate the Japanese and Chinese but that will literally be a far bigger ask against the Americans and perhaps the Canadians in knock-out play. The touted Canadians surprisingly lost 26-12 to Fiji in pool play so that spins them into a different part of the finals' draw than they expected.
The Australians play a more run-and-stun style than the heavier style of the Americans so it will be an intriguing match-up on Friday morning.
The Chinese are big improvers in rugby sevens and showed it with a quick tap-and-fly try by Yang Feifei for the opening score.
The Aussies responded immediately with their best try of the match.
Long-striding Demi Hayes found some space out wide but turning it back inside allowed a quick, sharp interchange of passes.
Young Faith Nathan had two good touches, Charlotte Caslick released an off-load as she hit the turf, Emma Tonegato got involved and captain Sharni Williams finally motored over for the try.
Caslick’s knack for always staying active in the play was rewarded when she threw a long pass to Nathan soon after. Australia’s top star looped around and ran 40m for a try.
The 12-5 score jumped to 19-5 when the Aussies scored a fine try over 90m. Composed passing across their goalposts freed Nathan, who showed her speed over 70m.
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Young Madison Ashby, Caslick and Williams were standouts in the win played in 29-degree heat even late in the day.
Ashby’s running came to the fore when she cut inside, showed the ball in both hands and zipped over for the fourth and final try.
Teenager Maddison Levi learnt a lesson late in the game when she ran into a deadend away from support near the sideline and turned over the ball.
The Chinese counter-attacked well and Tang Minglin scored 65m downfield.
It’s a lesson well learned against China because the consequences will always be far greater against a team like New Zealand, who had to overcome their own scare
Great Britain stunned the hot favourites NZ by leading 21-0 in their Pool A clash on Thursday night.
The jet shoes of Kiwi finisher Michaela Blyde grabbed NZ a 26-21 thriller in the final minute.
That result locks in Great Britain as Australia's seasoned and extremely tough quarter-final opponent should Williams and Co beat the Americans in their last pool match.