England’s Women secured their second consecutive IRB Challenge Cup Sevens crown on Sunday, defeating the Netherlands 34-7 in impressive style, in the final at Twickenham Stadium.
Worcester’s Joanne Watmore, who also scored two tries in the final of the Hong Kong leg of this tournament in March, was in fine form and touched down for a hat-trick of tries.
Katherine Merchant and Alice Richardson also got on the score-sheet to help secure the victory over a Netherlands side who had been causing upsets all tournament, with wins over world champions Australia and Canada.
England Head Coach Barry Maddocks said, “This has been a great tournament and what a way to end it, winning here in front of thousands of rugby fans and in one of rugby’s greatest stadiums.
“Our performance in the final was excellent. It was a controlled and slick performance and the players worked really hard for this victory. Every one of them played a part.
“Matches like this, in front of these sorts of crowds and live on television is massive for the development of this sport and we are all thrilled to be a part of it.”
England started the final on the back foot with the Netherlands showing some good support work to break through England’s defence and score. Lorraine Laros converted Annemarije van Rossum try to take a 7-0 lead after just two minutes.
However, some good work by England’s Kay Wilson, Alice Richardson and Emily Scarratt turned the tables and England took a quick tap penalty which set Watmore loose on the left wing to score her first.
Two minutes later and Watmore was on the scoreboard again to the delight of the vociferous Twickenham crowd. This time Richardson and Scarratt created the space for Watmore to run in with ease to take the lead to 10-7.
Just before half-time and England eased their way to a comfortable 17-7 lead when Richardson took a quick penalty deep in the Netherlands’ 22 and inflicted one of her trademark breaks to run in unopposed. Richardson then converted her own try.
Watmore was back in the thick of the action after the restart, causing the Netherlands even more problems. England kept creating the space and Watmore broke and evaded two players to dive over the try-line.
Bristol’s Wilson came close to scoring England’s fifth, but she took a bad knock near the try-line and replacement Merchant came on. Merchant, a prolific try scorer in the XVs game, made an immediate impact scoring nearly on her first touch of the ball.
She didn’t quite get over the line but did moments later with a great break out-wide which left the Netherlands with no way to respond.
Merchant then finished off England’s rout when she cut a great line from the back of an England scrum to carve her way through the midfield and score. Richardson kicked the conversion to make the final score 34-7.
England booked their place in the final after a thrilling victory in the semi-finals. England were forced to go to extra time when Canada held them at 12-12. Scarratt, making her England Sevens debut this weekend, touched down for the crucial try after cutting a great line from the back of a scrum.
Maddocks added, “To win two back-to-back Challenge Cups is a massive achievement but this season is by no means over for us. We have got to qualify for the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens next month at the European Championships so winning here today is invaluable preparation for that.”
Check out this video featuring Michaela Staniford and Joanne Watmore giving their verdict on such an impressive victory.
Lizzie Flint, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine