England Women finished runners-up in the second leg of the two-part Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series in Kazan, after 21-0 defeat to Russia in the Cup final.
Earlier in the day, England beat Wales 21-7 in a hard-fought Cup quarter-final, securing a place in the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco next year.
England broke through Wales defence in the fourth minute with tries from Holly Aitchison and Millie Wood giving them a half-time lead of 14-0. Wales opened the second half with a try from Dyddgu Hywell but England’s defence held strong and Jo Richardson-Watmore crossed the line to close out the game 21-7.
England faced France in the Cup semi-final with Heather Fisher scoring a try in the opening seconds of the game and soon followed Millie Wood with a score. France fought back and crossed twice to bring the half-time score to 14-10.
England were camped on their own line at the start of the second-half but a well-read intercept by Aitchison saw her run the length of the pitch to dot down. Katie Mason scored England’s fourth try, France’s Cyrielle Banet scored a consolation try crossing the line in the dying seconds, as the game ended 26-15.
England Women had finished day one at the Kazan Sevens unbeaten after wins over Sweden, Poland and Ireland.
England secured a 45-0 win over Sweden in their first pool game. Kelly Smith and Aitchison both scored two tries in England’s opening match of the day. Wood, Deborah Fleming and Natasha Brennan also touched down in a comfortable 45-0 win.
Poland provided more of a test in the second pool match and England went down to an early try to trail 5-0. England responded quickly through Kelly Smith leaving the scores level at 5-5 at the break.
Fisher gave England an ideal start to the second half to score under the posts. Katie Mason extended the lead running almost the entire length of the pitch to dot down. Claire Allan then sealed the win with a try of her own making it 26-5 at full-time.
In their final match of the day England faced Ireland. Initially on the back foot England did well to soak up early Irish pressure. England worked their way up the pitch and Alice Richardson-Watmore powered over the line to give her side a 7-0 lead. Ireland responded with two tries in quick succession, including one brilliant score from Hannah Tyrrell, and went into half-time 12-7 up.
Ireland’s Lucy Mulhall found space to score and bring their lead to 17-7. Aitchison kept England’s chances of victory alive after throwing a dummy and sprinting through with her try converted to bring the score to 17-14. A tense final minute saw England’s Jo Richardson-Watmore produce a moment of magic in the final play of the match, sprinting down the left wing to snatch a 21-17 win.
England Womens sevens coach James Bailey said: “We are thrilled to achieve our season goal and secure qualification for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco next year.
“I’m extremely proud of this squad, how they have approached and played throughout the weekend. The work rate and energy never wavered with the players working hard for each other, leaving nothing behind.
“We wanted to come to Kazan and put in consistently good performances and that’s exactly what the squad delivered.”