Four teams remain unbeaten at the end of day one of the women’s Olympic rugby sevens tournament following two pulsating sessions at Tokyo Stadium.
Rio 2016 gold medallists Australia, France, the USA and top seeds New Zealand all got off to a perfect start at Tokyo 2020, winning consecutive matches on the opening day.
Defending champions Australia beat Japan and China in Pool C, while New Zealand, who won silver five years ago, beat Kenya and overturned a 21-point deficit to secure a narrow victory against Great Britain in a scintillating encounter of top quality rugby sevens.
France and the USA also won both their matches on Thursday but Rio 2016 bronze medallists Canada slipped to defeat against an impressive Fiji side in the second session at Tokyo Stadium.
France beat Fiji 12-5 with tries from captain Fanny Horta and speedster Séraphine Okemba in the first game of the tournament and Les Bleues head into day two unbeaten after they followed up their opening win with a comfortable 40-5 defeat of Brazil in the second session.
Canada’s hopes of repeating their bronze medal performance at Rio 2016 took a hit in the second session on Thursday when they lost 26-12 to an inspired Fijiana side, who had seen their male counterparts claim the gold medal on Wednesday evening.
China became only the second team to score the first try of an Olympic match against Australia when the teams met in Thursday’s second session, but Australia responded with tries from Sharni Williams, Charlotte Caslick, Faith Nathan and Madison Ashby to win the match 26-10.
The USA made sure of their place in the medal quarter-finals on day three as they won their second match on Thursday 17-7 against Japan.
Great Britain had two tries from co-captain Abbie Brown to thank as they twice came from behind to win an enthralling Pool A opener against the Russian Olympic Committee team (ROC) 14-12.
In the final match of the first session, New Zealand began their quest for a first Olympic sevens gold medal with a 29-7 win against Kenya.
Michaela Blyde was the match-winner in New Zealand’s second match of day one as the Black Ferns Sevens recovered from going 21-0 down to beat Great Britain 26-21 in a scintillating match.
Great Britain raced into a three-score lead in the first half as Helena Rowland, Megan Jones and Jasmine Joyce scored tries in the opening five minutes.
However, the New Zealand comeback started before half-time as Blyde scored twice, before Tyla Nathan-Wong scored a sensational solo try midway through the second half.
Great Britain led until the final minute, but Blyde found space again to score for a third time and secure a mammoth comeback win.
In the final match of day one the ROC held off a spirited comeback from Kenya to record their first ever Olympic sevens victory, beating the Lionesses 35-12.
Competition will intensify on Friday as the 12-team field is narrowed to four gold medal hopefuls by the end of it.
The four undefeated teams will now hope to finish their pool stage campaign with the win that would guarantee top spot in their respective groups.
But, with the top two in each pool and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the medal quarter-finals each of the competing nations has a last-eight spot to play for on day two.
Defending champions Australia will continue their pursuit of glory at Tokyo 2020 at 10:30 local time (GMT+9) when they take on Pool C rivals USA, who were the only team they played and failed to beat at Rio 2016.
The two teams were drawn together in Pool A five years ago, and also met in their final match of the pool stage. On that occasion, Australia needed a late Emma Tonegato try to secure a 12-12 draw that sent both teams into the medal quarter-finals.
Tonegato is one of five members of Australia’s gold medal winning squad that have been selected for Tokyo 2020, and she was in fine form on day one, scoring a hat-trick against Japan.
Victory for either side would guarantee top spot in Pool C and set up a medal quarter-final against the team that finishes second in Pool A.
The teams have met 13 times since their first Olympic meeting, with Australia winning eight of those matches including the bronze final at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco.
Australia and the USA both recorded wins over China and Japan on day one, however, one of the Asian teams could still qualify for the medal quarter-finals with a victory in their match on day two, which kicks off at 10:00 local time (GMT+9).
France could exact Olympic revenge on Canada, and boost their Tokyo 2020 medal hopes, when the two teams meet in their final Pool B match at 09:30 local time on Friday.
Canada beat Les Bleues 15-5 in the medal quarter-finals five years ago and went on to earn their place on the podium, beating Great Britain in the bronze medal match at Deodoro Stadium.
But, the Canadians need to win when the two teams meet again at Tokyo Stadium to be sure of a medal quarter-final place, after they lost 26-12 to Fiji in Thursday’s second session.
Les Bleues have won only one of the team’s 17 World Rugby Sevens Series matches since Rio, but they did beat Canada in the RWC Sevens 2018 quarter-finals.
Should France win on Friday then their prize would be top spot in Pool B and a medal quarter-final against the best third-place finisher.
Fiji could seal their own progress to the last eight with a victory against Brazil when the teams meet in the opening match of day two at 09:00 local time.
New Zealand will top Pool A if they make it three wins out of three against the Russian Olympic Committee team (ROC) at 11:30 local time.
A Russian team has only ever beaten the Black Ferns Sevens once before — a 33-7 win at the Dubai Sevens in 2015 — although there have been two draws in their 27 meetings to date.
New Zealand will be keen to end their pool stage campaign on a winning note, meanwhile, and know that victory would set up a medal quarter-final against the second-best third-placed finisher.
Great Britain will want to rebound from their loss to New Zealand with victory against Kenya when the teams meet at 11:00 local time (GMT+9).
Whoever finishes top of Pool A will feature in the first medal quarter-final, which is scheduled to kick-off at 17:30 local time (GMT+9). The final last-eight match will kick-off at 19:00 local time (GMT+9).
Prior to the quarter-finals, the ninth-place semi-finals will take place at 16:30 and 17:00 local time.