The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 may have been cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic but it was still big on drama.
Here, we take a look back at some of the highlights from the men’s and women’s series.
FIJI’S DESERT DISAPPOINTMENT
A Cup quarter-final line-up isn’t the same without Fiji’s men, but that was the case in Dubai.
For the first time in the 21-year history of the Series, the four-time title winners failed to make it past the pool stages having finished third in Pool A behind France and Argentina.
Each team won two matches apiece but Fiji lost out on points difference. Their last-gasp 24-21 defeat to Argentina was their first defeat at that stage of a Series tournament since Vancouver in 2017 and ultimately cost them dearly.
BLITZBOKS ROCK LA
Even in a sport used to the extraordinary, South Africa’s comeback against Fiji in the final of the men’s HSBC LA Sevens last March was scarcely believable. Not even local Hollywood scriptwriters could have made this one up as the Blitzboks scored twice in the final minute of one of the most dramatic gold medal matches ever witnessed.
With the final hooter only 27 seconds away, Branco du Preez converted his own try to level the scores at 24-24 and force the game into sudden-death extra-time. Fiji were now down to six men following a yellow card and South Africa took advantage of the extra space to send replacement prop Sako Makata racing to the line.
BLACK TO BLACK
The Black Ferns Sevens became the first women’s team to win back-to-back titles at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens in December 2019 after the defending champions beat Canada 17-14 in a thrilling final.
Gayle Broughton scored with less than 20 seconds left on the clock as New Zealand came back from a 14-5 half-time deficit to defeat Canada in the title decider. Stacey Fluhler, one of the Unstoppables in World Rugby’s Try and Stop Us' campaign, scored twice in the match but it was Broughton’s score that proved decisive.
Having conceded 17 tries to her in 15 previous appearances, France knew what to expect from Ellia Green when they came up against Australia in the semi-finals of the HSBC Cape Town Sevens in December 2019.
But they were still powerless to stop the former sprinter from adding to her tally after an impressive double fend-off and turn of speed saw her score from halfway. The try was Green’s 129th on the series, a new Australian record.
THE RACE TO 200
USA speedsters Carlin Isles and Perry Baker made history on home soil on the inaugural day of the LA Sevens, the newest event on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as they achieved the remarkable milestone of 200 Series tries.
With both players entering the day one short of the 200, it was Isles who won the foot race as he scored in the host’s opening victory over Samoa before Baker joined him in the double centurions’ club in their next game against Scotland.
EMBA KEEPS THE FLAME BURNING IN GLENDALE
Having concluded the 2019 World Series with a first-ever Cup title in Biarritz, USA kicked off the new season in Glendale by becoming only the second women’s team to be crowned champions on home soil after Australia in 2018. However, the route to the final meeting with Australia was far from straightforward.
The Women’s Sevens Eagles faced elimination to North American rivals Canada in the quarter-finals until Cheta Emba intervened with a brilliant piece of skill.
With her side trailing 26-22 in the closing seconds, Emba leapt into the sky to claim a restart, took it cleanly, and had a clear run to the posts for the winning score. The USA then came through another nail-biter against New Zealand to set up the gold medal decider with Australia.
A SPECIAL BC PLACE
BC Place in Vancouver has become one of the favourite stopovers on the World Series despite being a relatively new venue. The HSBC Canada Sevens has captured the local public’s imagination and 74,560 fans turned up over the two-day tournament in Vancouver in March.
New Zealand may have won the title but Canada’s bronze medal – their first podium finish since 2017 – was celebrated the most wildly. Canada were outstanding throughout the weekend and brought the huge crowd to their feet with an impressive 26-19 victory over South Africa.