China claim third Challenger title as Madrid tickets handed out

China beat hosts Poland 36-0 in the Krakow final to win a third World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 title and they will be joined at the HSBC SVNS Play-off by Argentina, Belgium and this weekend's hosts.

China completed their near-perfect women’s World Rugby HSBC Sevens Challenger 2024 campaign, beating hosts Poland 36-0 in the Krakow final to claim a third successive tournament victory.

The Chinese had secured their place in the HSBC SVNS Play-off tournament by qualifying for the quarter-finals at the end of day one, and they will be joined in Madrid by Argentina, Belgium and Poland.

A large section of those inside Henryk Reyman’s Municipal Stadium for Sunday’s final hoped they would see a home title, but China showed once again why they have been the form team of the 2024 Challenger.

China had lost only one of their 17 matches in Dubai, Montevideo and Krakow ahead of the showpiece match and following a cagey opening three minutes, Dou Xinrong notched the first try of the final with Hanna Maliszewski in the sin bin.

Maliszewski received her first yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, but for a split second it looked as though she had claimed the intercept that would undoubtedly have resulted in a try.

Instead, Poland conceded and Su Qi stretched the Chinese lead to 12-0 in the closing stages of the first half. That intervention seemed to break the hosts’ resolve.

China put the gloss on victory with three tries in as many second-half minutes – through Dou, Liu Xiaoqian and Gu Yaoyao – before Wang Xiao added a late sixth.

Poland’s defeat was compounded before full time as Maliszewski was shown a second yellow card and the resulting red. However, despite their final loss second place was enough to lift the hosts into fourth place in the overall standings, ensuring they will travel to Madrid in a fortnight.

Belgium beat Kenya to bronze

Due to their significantly inferior points difference compared to Poland, Kenya needed to win the bronze final in Krakow with a big score to have any hope of claiming the final ticket to Madrid.

The Lionesses Sevens opened the scoring inside the first minute when some smart passing created the space for Naomi Amuguni to streak into.

However, Belgium were determined to claim a second successive bronze medal and found a way back into the match when Cecile Blondiau powered her way over from close range.

Hanne Swiers then sped away down the left wing on the stroke of half-time to give the Europeans a 12-7 lead at the break.

It was an advantage they increased early in the second half as Blondiau crossed for a second time.

Following a delay as Edith Nariaka received treatment, Blondiau finished off a fine Belgian team move to complete her hat-trick and Margaux Stevins added her third conversion to make the final score 26-7.

Hosts edge Kenya

China had started day two with a comfortable five-try 38-14 victory against Uganda in the quarter-finals, Dou and Liu both crossing the whitewash twice.

The Chinese then followed that up with a 21-12 victory against Belgium in which Liu, Yu Hu and Ruan Hongting all scored tries.

Belgium had qualified for the semi-finals with a routine 38-0 defeat of Paraguay, Margaux Lalli scoring three of her side’s six tries.

Poland gave the home fans plenty to cheer on day two, Oliwia Struginska scoring two of the hosts’ four tries in their 24-5 quarter-final victory against Czechia.

The home side had lost to Kenya during the pool stage but came from behind to win a tight semi-final 21-19 and book their place in the showpiece match. Katarzyna Paszczyk scored either side of half time to kick-start the recovery.

Kenya had made their way to the semi-finals with a comfortable 22-5 victory against Argentina in the quarter-finals, all four of the Lionesses Sevens tries coming in the first half.

Argentina end Challenger with win

Despite losing to Kenya in the quarter-finals, Argentina were already guaranteed their place in Madrid prior to their fifth-place play-off due to other results.

And they celebrated that achievement by beating Czechia 15-12, responding to falling behind to an early Kristyna Plevová by crossing the whitewash three times as Maria Brigido, Chamorro, Talia Rodich and Gimena Mattus.

Vera Gartnerova added a fine late effort for Czechia to narrow the deficit but with time elapsed it had no impact on the outcome of the match.

Earlier, Uganda signed off from the 2024 Challenger with a 35-5 defeat of Paraguay in the seventh-place play-off.

The Lady Cranes Sevens had started the weekend in fourth but a disappointing weekend in Krakow, in which they lost to Argentina and Paraguay in the pool stage before a quarter-final defeat to China, dropped them to sixth in the standings.

Meanwhile, Thailand beat Papua New Guinea 19-15 in the ninth-place play-off after Hong Kong China had claimed a narrow 10-7 win against Mexico to finish the tournament 11th.