- England Women roared home by 40,000 fans at So Kon Po
- Watmore strikes twice to floor world champs in final seconds
England lifted the IRB Women’s Challenge Cup at the Hong Kong Sevens after Jo Watmore’s two tries clinched a dramatic 15-10 victory over World Cup Sevens winners Australia.
They looked out on their feet when Rebecca Tavo levelled the scores three minutes from time but clung on until Watmore struck from long range with the final play of the game.
The Worcester centre had opened the scoring after Alice Richardson created the chance in a non-stop first half before Bristol wing Kay Wilson sprinted home from 75 metres just after the break.
They spent long spells on the back foot defending – Worcester forward Heather Fisher’s power at the breakdown disrupting the world champions – before Watmore was roared home by the 40,000 So Kon Po crowd.
Photo: Getty Images
England had been beaten in the Dubai Sevens final by Canada and by Australia at the 2009 World Cup Sevens. But they overwhelmed Canada 22-12 in the Hong Kong semi and completing the job in the final was a landmark moment according to co-captain Michaela Staniford.
“We have been thinking about it for a long time and it has been a long awaited tournament,” said Staniford. “To come away and take the cup is amazing, it feels great, absolutely brilliant.
“It was about talent and a few old cool heads, who know the game, how to play in finals and how to play under pressure. Those split decisions that are key in sevens and they were the difference between Dubai and now. Having those younger players as well, we are only going to learn from that and move on as a team.
“To come and play a final like that, in front of this many people, that is televised, changes peoples’ thoughts on the women's game, and will hopefully increase the number of followers we have.”
Photo: Getty Images
Fisher only returned to action on Friday after a long lay-off recovering from two fractured vertebrae that put her in a cast for three months last year.
She said: “We lost to Australia in 2009 and we wanted to go out and go ‘Right, we’re back and we’re going to do some damage’.
“They put up a great fight but we kept going and kept going and didn’t give up. It’s a massive step forward as a team and something to go forward from. It’s fantastic.
“This is one of the occasions you work for. Behind the scenes, when nobody’s watching, you’ve got the hard sessions, get up early and do a session, come back from work and do another session. Then you get to play in front of all these thousands of people.”
Watmore added: “The first eight minutes it was just non-stop rugby, no stoppage in play, and it was tiring but it was our belief inside.
“We’re quite strong-minded as a team to bring it in and even though we were knackered we were able to dig that little bit deeper because we wanted to improve on Dubai, take it to the next level and put ourselves up there on the world stage. It’s our first major trophy and hopefully we can take that forward.”
Earlier Staniford’s two first-half tries and further scores from Richmond centre Rachael Burford and fly half Richardson saw them home against Canada.
England Women Results in Hong Kong
England 31 China 7
Tries: Fisher, Burford, Richardson, Green, Noel-Smith. Conversions: Richardson (3)
England 38 Japan 0
Tries: Wilson (2), Staniford, Chamberlain, Riley, Richardson. Conversions: Richardson (4)
England 22 Canada 12
Tries: Staniford (2), Burford, Richardson. Conversion: Richardson
England 15 Australia 10
Tries: Watmore (2), Wilson