Aussies survive dramatic QF scare against Kiwis as teary Levi cops ANOTHER red, men brace

Australia’s women’s sevens team will take on the United States of America in the Perth semi-finals, but they’ll likely have to do it without their star outside back Maddison Levi.

In a dramatic quarter-final against New Zealand’s Black Ferns, Australia survived a second half scare to prevail against their trans-Tasman rivals and biggest threat to a second Olympic gold medal in July.

After the Black Ferns lost the physical and talented threat of Jorja Miller in the opening minute because of a head-on-head clash with Faith Nathan, Australia raced out to a 12-0 lead through Nathan and Madison Ashby.

Madison Ashby and Charlotte Caslick celebrate their dramatic quarter-final win over New Zealand at HBF Park on January 27, 2024 in Perth. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

But the quarter-final turned on its head in the moments before half time as Levi, who was playing his first match of the tournament after being shown a red card in Australia’s final success in Cape Town last month, was shown another red card for a similar front-on, head-on-head clash that left her in tears. The incident occurred one day after her younger sister Teagan was shown a red card for another head clash, where the defender failed to drop their body height.

With the match down to six on six, New Zealand pounced through their tryscoring machine Michaela Blyde who scored twice in as many minutes to give the Black Ferns the lead and take the momentum.

However, it didn’t last as Bienne Terita found space and got away a splendid pass to Charlotte Caslick who put Australia back in front.

Some nice footwork from Dominique du Toit then sealed the deal, as Australia survived an almighty scare to progress through to the final four.

“We’ve made a bit of a habit unfortunately of playing for six,” Caslick said.

“I think we’ve joked about being called the Sydney Sixers moving forwards instead of Aussie women’s Sevens. But, it was a pretty gutsy performance. If there’s one thing we can’t doubt in this group is they’ve got a lot of courage. I’m really proud of them for continuing to show up.”

Asked how good it feels to beat the Kiwis, Caslick said her side had bigger things in their mind like taking momentum and trying to claw the Black Ferns’ seeding points down ahead of this year’s Olympics in Paris.

“It always feels good to beat the Kiwis,” she said.

“Obviously, overall, we’re trying to chase them down for top seed at the Olympics in July, so we’re edging closer every tournament which is our goal.”

Charlotte Caslick races away to score and put Australia back in front against New Zealand. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui said Australia’s discipline was increasingly becoming an issue, but said their resilience was something to be proud of.

“It’s already cost them once in the pool round, it probably should have cost them there,” Turinui said on Stan Sport.

“They’re just going to have to fix that discipline, especially around tackle height and dipping – they’ll work on that. The one word that I want to pull out is courage and that’s what they needed to show to win that match.”

Australia will take on the USA in the second semi-final on Sunday at 3:46pm, with Ireland and Great Britain to meet in the first after downing Fiji and Canada respectfully.

On the men’s side of the draw and Australia will take on the USA Eagles in the fourth and final quarter-final (10:25pm) despite suffering two pool defeats.

It’s the same match-up as day one, where the USA Eagles overcame a 14-0 deficit to win 19-14 in golden point.

John Manenti’s side then lost 19-10 to Ireland after a horror period either side of half-time, where Australia was demolished at the breakdown.

But they will take some confidence into their knockout match knowing they’ve been in all four matches thus far, including their 26-14 win over Great Britain on Friday.

The big shock coming out of Saturday, however, was the early exit of New Zealand.

The All Blacks were hammered by France 33-17 in their opening hit out on Friday, before stealing a late win over Samoa.

But a late 21-14 loss to Fiji saw the All Blacks knocked out.

Ireland will meet France in the opening quarter-final, Argentina will take in Spain in the second while Fiji will clash with South Africa.

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