Briars Women’s Rugby News

Borneo Sevens

Briars Women’s Rugby have won the Plate Final at the Borneo 7s with a gutsy win over the Uzbekistan National team 12-5 in hot and sweaty conditions after 3 days of competition.

Briars Women’s Rugby were invited to compete at the Borneo 7s by Eagles Rugby Club and Asia Rugby. With 8 women’s teams competing, including national sides from Singapore, India, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the Borneo Eagles side a mix of professional players from NZ and Malaysia. Briars finished in 5th place winning the Plate final against Uzbekistan Rugby. This placed Briars as the top club side in the tournament.

The Borneo 7s is dubbed the Greenest 7s in the World, played near the rainforests of Sandakan in the north-east of the island of Borneo, just north of the equator. These rainforests are famed for their famous wildlife of orangutans, proboscis monkeys and sun bears and infamous palm plantations.

Briars flew out to Kuala Lumpur then onto Sandakan with a long 18 hour commute overnight on 14 March, ready for a swim in the hotel pool on arrival and a team dinner at a rooftop establishment. With a few players on their first ever international trip, friendships were built quickly within the team to make everyone comfortable in a new country and culture.

The next morning started early with a training session to acclimatise and hopefully miss the heat of the day (was still very hot!). A tour of Sandkan took up the rest of the day to visit a number of wildlife sanctuaries to see the Proboscis monkeys, Sun Bears and Orangutan’s. The team were very excited to get up close with the wildlife and enjoy feeding time in the wild habitats. The day finished with dinner with all the teams and ensuring that our team mascots were not stolen by the other teams (yet attempted to steal the other teams mascots).

Day 1 of the tournament started with a very moving visit to the Sandakan War Memorial, built in the former grounds of the former Sandakan WW2 POW camp which was populated with mostly Australian and English soldiers. The site is dedicated as a memory for all prisoners in the camp who died during the Sandakan Death Marches.

With only one game in the afternoon, the team were excited to finally get their boots on and warmed up. With a late change to the draw, Briars were playing the Indian national side. The team were confident in the opportunity but a well drilled and disciplined Indian side got a hard fought win 12 – 19 for game 1 in front of a big crowd including 30 local pre-school kids who thought the team were superstars. The team were disappointed in the result and after a team meeting and review of the game we were ready to compete the next day.

Day 2 of the tournament had two games scheduled to finish off the pool games. Our first game was against Kazakhstan who were recently defeated in Dubai. The Dubai team was their U20s side and this game was against the National side, a favourite for the competition. Briars kept their heads up, defended well but couldn’t find the try line against a strong side, losing 0 – 24.

After some soul searching the team came back together for their last game of the pools vs Malaysian club side Labuan Wipers.The team’s confidence built after their first try and a bit more space to play in, winning the game 31 – 5. A much happier team to get a win on the board and building into finals on Day 3.

Day 3 of the tournament saw all team in the mix for finals. Placing 5th out of the pools Briars were up against 4th place India again. Knowing we had a close game in the pools, the team was confident but India had also grown and picked holes in our defence to win the match 0 – 31. This put Briars into the Plate competition with two wins needed to take home some silverware.

The Plate semi-final was against another Malaysian club team, Convent Jaguars. Both teams had built a fun relationship over the tournament and with a delay from previous games an impromptu dance party erupted in the players tunnel to keep everyone moving and excited. This definitely helped the Briars, taking out the game 49 – 0.

The Plate Final vs Uzbekistan was to be our opportunity to win a trophy to bring home and the team rose to the occasion. A tough game after 3 days of competition, high temperatures, humidity, a bit of sunburn and a lot of karaoke, Briars scored twice to Uzbekistan’s one try to win 12-5.

The team accepted their trophy and medals in front of a big crowd at the stadium and were swamped by locals to get photos with the players (and coaching staff!). Celebrations continued into the night with all the teams having an end of tournament dinner together and entertainment provided by each team as a tradition.

The Briars Women’s team should be very proud of their achievement, competing well against well drilled semi-professional players as amateur club players. The team continues to grow in their ability and experience and now look forward to a strong local season in Sydney.

Briars Women’s Rugby thank everyone for their continued support of the team from Briars Sports, sponsors, fans, friends and family.

Dubai 7s Tour Report

After a long lead up, fundraising and training the Briars Women’s Rugby 7s team departed for Dubai in the early hours of the morning on Monday 28 November. A long 14 hour plane ride was ahead of them but everyone was very excited to get over there that not much rest was had for the flight.

Arriving in Dubai on Monday afternoon, the first highlight on the trip to our hotel was seeing the Burj Khalifa rising from the desert, towering over the expansive city of Dubai. It was now  a reality that the team were in town and ready for the biggest 7s tournament in the world. A relaxing day settling into town and a team dinner rounded out the day with some much needed rest and an early night to try and get into the right timezone.

Tuesday morning started with a beach training session to get accustomed to the heat of Dubai and get moving after a long flight. With limited grass pitches around, Kite beach was the best option we had, using Esperia Volleyball Academy’s facility

Next up we had a surprise for the team. Briars had been invited to the Aussie Women’s 7s training session at a Dubai high school which was being used by the World Series teams for training. A definite highlight to see the level of intensity and discipline the Aussie team put into every session.

Finishing off the day, we were off on a sunset desert safari. Quad bike riding, camel rides, 4WD dune bashing, sunset over the sand dunes and a BBQ dinner were all included in a great team adventure.

The last day before the tournament began was mostly a free day for sightseeing finishing off with a captains run at an amazing facility in downtown Dubai under the shadow of Burj Khalifa, Ballers. The team were presented their jerseys by Briars International coach Stuart Ryan and Briars Women’s Rugby President David Lannan. A team dinner next to an aquarium (complete with sharks and mermaids) finished off the night and we were ready for Tournament Day 1, working towards our goal to place Top 2 in the group and see how far we could then go!

Back Row: Stu Ryan (coach), Breanna Raymond, Annabel Woo, Courtney Miller, Awhina Akuhata, Bianca Bennetts, Sam Small, David Lanna (President)

Front Row: Ashlee Scott (chaperone), Chloe Bromage, Rachel Simpson, Kate Mateffy, Taylah Watson, Josephine Maejiirs, Pui San Lai

Day 1

Briars were scheduled for two games on day 1 of the event. Turning up to such an amazing facility was definitely inspiring to the team. With 8 rugby fields, including the main stadium plus a swimming pool and recovery facilities it was definitely worthy of its reputation as the biggest 7s tournament the world. The sun was out with a top of 31c it was definitely going to test our fitness.

Game 1
Briars v Tabusoro Angels International: 10 – 10

The first game was against an international invitational team, Tabusoro Angels, based in Norway with Fijian roots. The team consisted of national level players from across Europe, having won the Dubai 7s in 2018 and 2019, Briars knew we were up for a big game. With some early jitters we settled into the game. With tries from Bree Raymond and Taylah Watson scores were locked at 10-10, Angels got a break down the far wing and we thought we were beat but a massive chase and big tackle from Chloe Bromage saw Angels drop the ball over the line and seal the draw.

Game 2
Briars vs Kazakhstan: 26 – 7

The second game was an international affair but not Briars first, playing their first international games earlier in the year against Thailand, Singapore and UAE. Kazakhstan were rumoured to play a similar physical game to Briars so we knew we would need to stand up to them and we started a team ready to tackle. Late mail came in that a number of Kazakhstan players were out injured after a tournament in UAE the weekend prior and that played to our strengths. The first international win for Briars with tries for Sam Small, Rachel Simpson, Breanna Raymond and Pui San Lai.

Day 2

Day 2 we had our final pool game and depending on results we would move to the Cup finals on Day 3 or Plate Finals on same day. The sun was out again, the team was excited and focused for a big first game.

Game 3 Briars v Rhinos Rugby: 7 – 36

Rhinos went into this game undefeated with some big wins against the other group teams. Briars needed to secure Top 2 spot and all that needed was to not lose by too much. Rhinos are a professional academy team based in the USA, with players from the national sides of Sth Africa, USA, NZ, Ireland, Poland, Japan and Fiji. It was going to be a tough match.

Briars had a slow start, with a mostly defensive start, the heat was testing the fitness. Three quick tries to Rhinos saw us move back to our attacking pattern and speed to force mistakes on Rhinos and it worked. Our second half was much stronger, holding Rhinos out for most of the match and Chloe Bromage breaking the line and being the first player to score against Rhinos for the tournament. Briars held the difference and secured second spot in the group.

Our day at the ground ended early, heading back for some recovery and a team dinner to reflect on a great performance so far.

Day 3
Cup Quarter Final Briars v Tropics 7s : 19 – 21

An early morning game didn’t mean the sun went away, but we were ready to take on another professional academy team with players from across Europe and the UK, coached by renowned English player Heather Fisher. The team were up for the game and captain Bianca Bennetts had been in the ear of the coach to get the best out of the team. Briars went out strong with a perfect 7s play ending with Taylah Watson with the undercut on Breanna Raymond to find the gap and sprint down the line for a converted try. Tropics hit back, dragging our defence a bit too far and created a gap for a try. Bianca hit back with a signature tackle buster and sprint to score under the posts and another conversion. Tropics again hit back scoring two tries to go ahead by 1 point at half time 14-15. A defensive battle played out in the second half with Tropics the first to score taking the score to 14-20. A try in the last minute of the game and a captains effort from Bianca Bennetts got us to kicking the conversion to win. Unfortunately the try was forced into the corner and missed the conversion. Another great game and cemented Briars, an amateur club from Australia in the Top 8 at the biggest club 7s competition in the world.

The tournament finished with a party for all the players and spectators once the World Series event finalised (with Aussie Women taking top spot).
The rest of the tour was free time. A late Sunday night flight gave everyone plenty of time to get all the sightseeing in and enjoy what Dubai had to offer.
Briars look forward to heading back to Dubai and taking out the competition!

Players Report – Taylah Watson

Dubai was hands down one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. Being lucky enough to travel with such a fantastic team is something I will never take for granted. Meeting new people and making new friends from all over the world is something not many people get to experience! If I’m being completely honest

I was so very nervous to head over to another country but Briars made it a whole lot easier! I was comfortable and supported the whole trip. Playing against people from all over the world was such a new and exciting experience.

Not only did we make friends, learn new skills and watch some great rugby, we learnt new languages, tried new food and most importantly made some life long friends. Rugby brings people from all over the world together, that’s what I love about the sport!

Scoring my first international try was something I will remember for the rest of my life, and for it to be alongside the girls from Briars made it even more special. We grew so much as a team over in the UAE and it was such an honour to put on the briars jersey and make everyone proud!

It was a trip I will never forever and something I will always be grateful for.