THE Australian womens sevens team are world champions for the second time in three seasons after star Emilee Cherry sealed a thrilling win with a last-second try at the Paris Sevens.
Needing to only make the final of the fifth and final leg of the World Rugby Womens Series to win the entire thing, the Aussie team trailed against France in the semi-final as the seconds wound down.
A loss would have likely seen New Zealand claim the world series title.
But just as they’d done in the quarter-final earlier in the day, the Aussie side pulled out a clutch final play to score and win the game.
Gold-medal winning star Emma Tonegato won a steal in her own quarter and took a quick tap. After finding space, Tonegato found Dom Du Toit who sent Cherry racing 40 metres to the line to win.
Amazingly, Cherry had also scored the last-gasp match-winner a few hours earlier when it seemed like Australian’s title dream was in ruins due to Fiji almost pulling off an upset win.
“I think pure fear (was going through my mind),” Cherry said.
“Charlotte (sic) and Dom did excellent through the middle and I was just the one who touched the ball in the last half.”
Australia only need to turn up to the final tomorrow against their arch-rivals New Zealand to bank enough points to win the 2017-18 World Series.
They held a four-point lead over the Kiwis coming into the Paris sevens courtesy of their back-to-back tournament wins at the start of the season in Dubai and Sydney.
New Zealand won the next two tournaments but a fifth place in Dubai hurt them as far as the points ladder went.
Winning a world title is a remarkable achievement given the Australian team has undergone some major challenges this season.
The team swapped coaches mid-year when Tim Walsh moved to the mens team and assistant John Manenti stepped up into the main role.
Australia has also been without several big stars this year, too.
Reigning player of the year Chloe Dalton left the program, and a host of new players were brought in as experienced players were also injured.
In Paris the Australian side was without co-captain Sharni Williams and fellow Rio stars Alicia Quirk and Ellis Green.
Indeed, only five of the 12 in Paris were Olympians.
It was fitting that Cherry, Tonegato and Caslick stepped up with clutch plays and leadership.
Cherry said the points equation – make the final and win the world series – was not mentioned by the team but everyone knew it.
“We knew it in the back of our mind but there was no talk to it. John Manenti gave us a stirring speech out on the field and said “leave absolutely everything out on the field” and we did that,” Cherry said.
“It’s absolutely huge, winning our second world series title. And we have a bunch of new girls, so that’s awesome. But we want to come back out again tomorrow and show this French crowd and everyone at home a really top notch game against New Zealand.”
Co-captain Shannon Parry said the team felt “sheer relief, to be honest”.
“For us I guess it is has been an up and down year. We obviously started well, had a bit of a lull there through the Commonwealth Games, and made the final in Canada and had our cards handed to us (by New Zealand),” Parry said.
“For us, we have another job to do to tomorrow and really looking forward to that challenge.”