Prior to the HSBC Sydney Sevens 2017 only one HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series women’s Cup final had been contested that did not feature either Australia or New Zealand.
However, the first-ever women’s World Series event to be held at Allianz Stadium produced two semi-final upsets — and an all-North American showpiece match.
The USA had opened their season with a disappointing 11th-place finish at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens just two months prior to the tournament in Sydney.
A 19-10 defeat to Russia on day one in Australia did not bode well for the Americans. But victories against England, Spain and Ireland set up a semi-final encounter with New Zealand.
The Black Ferns Sevens had won 13 of the pair’s 15 World Series meetings going into that match, however that counted for little as the USA secured a 19-12 win.
In the other semi-final, Canada maintained their hopes of a third World Series Cup triumph as they ended hosts Australia’s run with a 12-7 victory.
Standing between the Canadians and a second Cup win in three tournaments was a USA team that had reached two previous finals — and lost them both.
However, it was the Americans who opened the scoring as Naya Tapper showed her pace and agility on the left wing to stride away from the Canadian defence and dot down under the posts.
But anything the USA could do, their neighbours could do just as well as Brittany Benn outpaced Tapper on the wing before stepping the last line of defence to level the scores.
It was Canada who scored next too as Charity Williams produced another stunning, slalomed finish to touch down under the posts and put her side 14-7 in front.
Tapper handed off Williams early in the second half to score her second try and pull the USA within two points but the missed conversion ensured Canada retained an advantage.
And it was one they would extend with less than four minutes left as Bianca Farella did just enough to touch the ball down before it went dead.
There was still time for Tapper to complete her hat-trick with another impressive finish, in the right corner. But with time up the USA needed to regather their own kick-off to have any chance of victory, something they were unable to do.
It meant that Canada held on to win 21-17 and become the first women’s team to lift the distinctive Sydney Sevens trophy. There was some consolation for the USA as Tapper was named Player of the Final.