The last step was too high. Qualified for the final of the South African leg of World Sevens Rugby, this Sunday, thanks to victories against Fiji and New Zealand, the France women's rugby 7s team lost to Australia (29-26) and failed to achieve its dream of winning the first gold medal in its history in a competition of this level.
The Australians started the match better than the French. In the first minute, Maddison Levi scored a try, quickly followed by three more goals, making it 22-0. A priori irreparable gap at this level. But Anne-Cécile Ciofani then gave Les Bleues some hope by scoring twice in the in-goal at the end of the first half (22-14). That hope was further boosted when Maddison Levi was shown a red card for a high tackle on Camille Grassineau on the final play of the first half.
A second half badly managed on the power play
With seven players against six, Les Bleues had a golden opportunity to turn the game around. The second half was suffocating. Carla Neisen first brought Les Bleues back to within three, before Kaitlin Shave, despite the Australians' numerical inferiority, delivered the coup de grace. A final try by Joanna Grisez was not enough to reverse the trend and offer this historic gold medal to France.
It was a cruel ending for Les Bleues, who can still be proud of this auspicious run less than eight months before the Paris Olympic Games, for which they have automatically qualified as host countries. They will try to do better than their silver medal in 2021 in Tokyo.
Jérôme Daret's men were also in South Africa for this second stage of the season, after finishing in 9th place in Dubai. And Les Bleus came close to a feat, losing in sudden death overtime to Fiji in the quarter-finals (29-24). Eliminated, Antoine Dupont's future teammates had to settle for a match for 7th place, which they finally lost to Canada (33-17).