RWC Sevens dream lives on for women's quartet

(IRB.COM) Sunday 24 February 2013  
 RWC Sevens dream lives on for women's quartet
Brazil remain on course to continue their dominance of South American rugby - Photo: João Neto/Fotojump

By Frankie Deges in Rio de Janeiro

Having totally dominated the South American rugby scene since the first CONSUR Sevens tournament in 2004, favourites Brazil advanced to the semi finals of the regional tournament that will decide the 16th and final qualifier for Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow.

At home, in Rio de Janeiro, they will face a delighted Venezuela, while Uruguay plays Argentina in the other semi final.
Led by Julia Sardá, one of three Brazilian players from that original team still flying the women’s flag, the hosts found the going tough in their second game at the Estádio da Gávea on Saturday.

They opened by beating Peru by a comfortable 55-0 with a hat-trick from Paula Ishibashi, already a six-time MVP of CONSUR Sevens. Next came an Argentina side they had beaten 27-0 in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series tournament in Houston earlier in the month.

Leading 17-0 with five and a half minutes to play, Argentina got back into the game and as the clock ticked into the final seconds they were on the attack. However, the experience of the Brazilians got them through as they scored on the hooter to win 24-12 with a certain level of discomfort.
“We never believed we were better than anyone, we know we have to fight hard for every game,” said captain Sardá, who avoided talking about a ticket to Moscow.

Ready for next stage

“It isn’t that we are two games away from a World Cup. We play each game as it was the last.”

Brazil went on to secure top spot in Pool A with a 24-0 win against Chile and are closer to their ultimate goal of playing in a second Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Argentina finished second in Pool A after beating Chile 19-12, a game in which they struggled to contain a solid Chilean team, and Peru 52-0 with seven players scoring the eight tries.

They will face Uruguay, the Pool B winners, in the semi finals, but the Uruguayans, led by Lucía del Pino, rate their chances.

“Our game has grown enormously and we feel how close we are to Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens qualification,” said del Pino. “Argentina has a good team, but we’ve been working together for some six years and are ready to take it to the next stage.”

Pride of the pioneer

At 24, del Pino is another survivor from that first tournament played in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in 2004. “I was 15 at the time. The way the Women’s Game has grown and evolved is incredible. I feel the pride of being a pioneer.”
Uruguay was unbeaten on day one with victories over Venezuela (19-5), Paraguay (30-0) and Colombia (15-0).

Finding the runner-up to join Uruguay in the semi finals was not so clear cut as with Colombia and Venezuela drawing 10-10 it came down to points differential.

“We are very happy to have achieved moving into the top four,” said Marisell Méndez, who after serving her country as captain (and playing in the inaugural CONSUR Sevens) now coaches Venezuela. “It means a lot to this team and the women’s programme.”

In all, nine veterans from the first ever tournament in 2004, including Méndez  and Brazilian referee Cris Futuro, were involved in this ninth CONSUR Sevens in Rio.
While the RWC Sevens dream lives on for Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina, the four other teams will contest the Bowl with Chile tackling Paraguay and last year’s runners-up Colombia playing Peru.
Day one results

Pool A:
Brazil 55-0 Peru
Argentina 19-12 Chile
Brazil 24-12 Argentina
Chile 38-10 Peru
Brazil 24-0 Chile
Argentina 52-0 Peru
Pool B:
Colombia 22-0 Paraguay
Uruguay 19-5 Venezuela
Colombia 10-10 Venezuela
Uruguay 30-0 Paraguay
Uruguay 15-0 Colombia
Venezuela 29-0 Paraguay