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Aussie women’s sevens snatch late draw to set up Spanish clash

8 August 2016

RUGBY SEVENS: The Australian women’s rugby sevens side will play Spain in the quarter-finals after rescuing a draw against the USA at Deodoro Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Emma Tonegato reached out to dot the ball down after the siren before an ice-cool Chloe Dalton converted in blustery conditions to give the Aussies a share of the spoils and maintain their unbeaten Olympic campaign.

After a bright start from the Americans that saw them come close to scoring twice, it was 21-year-old Tonegato who gave Australia the early advantage when she picked up a loose ball in midfield to score despite being under pressure from Alev Kelter.

A sensational cover tackle from Charlotte Caslick preserved Australia’s slender lead at the break but the Americans’ pressure finally told when pacy outside back Jessica Javelet raced clear to score a converted try under the posts.

With Australia threatening to crack the US defence in the middle of the park, a loose ball from replacement Amy Turner was intercepted by Javelet who made once again no mistake. The missed conversion from Akalani Baravilala proved costly allowing Tim Walsh’s charges to snatch a late draw thanks to Tonegato and Dalton.

Ironically, Australia last drew a competitive match in London in May 2015 – 12-12 against the USA - a tournament that eventually saw the green and gold memorably take out at Twickenham Stadium.

Tonegato, who has now scored five tries in Rio, believes there is plenty of room for improvement ahead of the Cup quarter-final against a dangerous Spanish side.

“Our attack seal and ball presentation needs to improve,” she explained. “We need to hold onto the ball better and take it from there.

“We do practise a lot of different scenarios at training so it shows what kind of team we are to come back from being behind. Chloe [Dalton] is an unbelievable kicker and she is as cool as a cucumber.”

On the last eight clash with Spain, Tonegato added: “We never really know what to expect from them. They seem to hold onto the ball for a lot of phases to work their way up the field so we’re looking forward to it.”

Head Coach Tim Walsh agreed that the Spanish will present a tough test for Australia.

“Playing six perfect games in a row is extremely difficult and I’m not sure too many sides have done that. This [draw against the USA] is the kick up the backside we needed after an awesome day yesterday.

“Spain are a very passionate team and we’ll need to be at our best. They have some great players like Patricia Garcia. Perhaps they don’t have great speed but they do have hard-working players to more than make up for it.”

The Australian women’s rugby sevens team take on Spain at 5pm Sunday (AEST 6am Monday) in the Cup quarter-finals with the winner to play Canada or France in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

Final score: Australia 12 (T: Tonegato 2; C: Dalton) USA 12 (T: Javelet 2; C: Baravilala)

Steve Stammer

olympics.com.au

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