Try time: Women’s Rugby 7s makes debut at Commonwealth Games
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Exhilarating, compelling, instantaneous — women’s rugby sevens made its long-awaited debut at the Commonwealth Games.
Sevens is an ideal modern-day sport, each 14-minute match features back-to-back action and plenty of tries.
And the inclusion of the women’s event hit a sweet spot for organizers of the Commonwealth Games, with tickets to Super Sunday — rugby’s medal round — having sold out long ago for the 27,500 capacity Robina Stadium.
On Friday, Canada and South Africa were given the honor of running out first in the debut of the women’s event and it was hard to gauge the biggest cheer of the day.
A try in the opening minute from Canada’s Caroline Crossley, renditions of Sweet Caroline and big Fijian fends were all standouts.
However, fourth match of the day — Australia vs. Wales really had the crowd buzzing and Australian team didn’t disappoint them — up 10-0 after three minutes and a final margin of 34-5 at fulltime.
Such was the noise that it cost Australia’s Charlotte Caslick a try against Wales when she was tackled inches short late in the second half.
Caslick had sprinted away and thought she was through for a five-pointer only to be grabbed from behind by Jasmine Joyce.
“I had no idea she was there, my teammates said they were trying to tell me but I couldn’t hear because of the crowd — they were so loud cheering for me,” Caslick said. “I was kind of jogging for a bit there... ”
Caslick said the players loved the atmosphere but were going to have to be extra careful with their communication.
“We can’t actually hear a lot out there — the stadium is so close to the field and it’s closed up so the atmosphere is awesome,” she said. “Compared with Rio the stadium seems twice the size.”
It was the sport’s Olympic inclusion that really elevated sevens beyond the traditional support base.
The format was simple, and the shortened, racier version appealed to younger sports fans wanting to watch end-to-end action.
And while Olympic champion Australia is a favorite to win gold — other nations have bridged the gap since Rio.
The women’s sevens was one of the most-anticipated sports of these games and Friday’s action featured two rounds of women’s pool matches, eight matches in all.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada all won easily while England was initially pushed by Fiji before winning 17-5.
Speedster Ellia Green admitted Australia, which scored 24 unanswered points to rally from an early 12-5 deficit against England 29-12 in its second game, will have to “clean up a few things” ahead of Saturday’s game against Fiji.
“Everyone is just so much faster and more powerful now,” Green said of the improved competition in the women’s competition in recent seasons. “It’s a much more skillful game — across the board we’re all better athletes.”
Olympic silver medalist New Zealand had two big wins to open its campaign and hasn’t conceded a point to top Pool A. Australia leads Pool B.
The 16 men’s teams get their campaigns under way on Saturday, and all medal matches are Sunday.
The New Zealand men’s team will be without center Joe Webber, who has been ruled out because of swollen joints from reactive arthritis.
His illness-enforced absence follows that of New Zealand women’s representative Ruby Tui, who contracted mumps on a pre-games training camp.
While nine of the teams involved have played in every Commonwealth Games to date, Jamaica and Zamia will make their debuts. Olympic champion Fiji is making its Commonwealth Games return for the first time since 2006.