Russia hit high notes in women's opener
Just seven months out from hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow, Russia’s women have laid down a significant marker to their potential rivals on day one of the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series tournament in Dubai.
Anyone who thought that Russia would merely be at the RWC Sevens as gracious host and making up the numbers will now have to reassess that view because their women have proved a well-drilled, focussed and skilful outfit, topping a pool which included New Zealand, Canada and China.
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Last year’s winners of the Challenge Cup in Dubai, Canada, found that out in the opening game of Pool B as they went down 12-15 to the robust Russians. Tries from Rusiet Edidzhi, Navrat Khamidova and Marina Petrova set the tone for a day’s rugby of high quality.
Day one highlights
That initial hurdle safely negotiated, it was the might of New Zealand that stood in their way in their second match of the day. Early scores from World Cup winner Carla Hohepa and Kayla McAlister, sister of All Black Luke, seemed to be paving the way for a comfortable Kiwi victory but the physical Russians showed patience and belief to score tries from Ekaterina Kazakova and Nadezda Yarmotskaya to secure a 12-12 draw.
The confident Russians then turned on the style in their last match of the day to put China to the sword, and Canada's 12-12 draw with New Zealand meant the Russians topped the group.
Indeed, there are some mouth-watering match-ups promised for the second day’s action as the Cup competition is whittled down to eight. The Canadians will be keen to show the world they are worthy of their place in the quarter-finals and face up against an Australia side that has shown a ruthless streak as the only team to win all their matches in pool play.
Led by Emilee Cherry, who finished off five tries in the day, the Aussies took care of business by beating the much-fancied Netherlands, France and USA to go through as the top team in the tournament so far.
New Zealand take on England in the second quarter-final with South Africa facing Netherlands and Russia up against Spain.