New Zealand wrapped up a 13th men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title in Toulouse and followed that up with a come-from-behind 24-19 extra-time win against Argentina in the Cup final.
Heading into the penultimate tournament of the Series, the All Blacks Sevens knew they would secure the overall title if they reached the Cup final.
That looked in doubt at the death of their Cup semi-final against France as the hosts threatened their line with the New Zealand defence stretched. However, the attempted pass went to a black jersey and the All Blacks Sevens could celebrate.
New Zealand still had the Cup final to play, of course, and despite having their hopes of winning a first Series title ended, Argentina started brightly at Stade Ernest-Wallon.
German Schulz, Agustin Fraga and Marcos Moneta all crossed the whitewash to give Los Pumas Sevens a 19-7 lead at the break.
Against a team that had conceded only seven tries in reaching the Cup final, the All Blacks Sevens’ chances looked slim but Clark Laidlaw’s team displayed a champion spirit to win a titanic contest.
Akuila Rokolisoa narrowed the deficit with a try before player-of-the-match Roderick Solo levelled the scores, sending the match into golden point extra-time.
And it was left to Solo to produce the moment of magic that secured the title in Toulouse, drifting across the turf before producing an outrageous finish in the right corner.
“I didn’t plan that,” Solo admitted afterwards. “We got a move to crash midfield, but it came from nowhere and I just had to go for the corner and hope for the best.”
All Blacks Sevens captain Sam Dickson said: “So proud of the boys to come back again in extra time and show that ticker we’ve had all season and top-off our World Series. This victory means a lot to everyone.”
Hosts end on a high
Stade Ernest-Wallon was given something to cheer earlier on day three as France beat Canada 28-12 to win the bronze final.
The hosts were an errant pass away from beating New Zealand and reaching the Cup final, and home nerves heightened when Jack Carson opened the scoring for Canada in their last match.
However, France refused to panic and two tries from Aaron Grandidier and one apiece from Jordan Sepho and Jonathan Laugel wrapped up an impressive win.
“It’s just incredible to play in front of that crowd, all the energy we could feel it,” Laugel said afterwards.
“I’m also very proud of the guys, we were very disappointed after New Zealand even though we were so close to beating them. Now we beat Canada and it’s very good as we want to get a better position on the world championship [standings].”
Despite back-to-back defeats on Sunday, there is plenty for Canadian fans to be happy about from their performances in Toulouse as the team prepares for the World Rugby Sevens Series 2024 Play-off in London next weekend.
Canada will certainly take heart from victories over Uruguay and Kenya – who they meet alongside Tonga next weekend – as they travel to Twickenham.
Australia close on Olympic qualification
Australia had a chance to put some distance between themselves and those chasing the final Olympic qualification place as they faced Ireland in the fifth-place play-off.
They fell 7-0 and 14-7 behind in the early stages but a Nathan Lawson hat-trick either side of half-time set them on course for a 26-21 victory.
It means Australia retain the fourth and final qualifying spot ahead of the season finale at Twickenham next weekend.
Australia head to London with a nine-point cushion on Samoa and South Africa immediately beneath them and will be guaranteed of a ticket to Paris if they reach the Cup semi-finals at English rugby’s HQ.
Samoa were beaten by Spain in the ninth-place semi-finals on Sunday, but Los Leones Sevens were not able to secure a memorable Pacific Islands double on day three.
Despite closing to within four points in the closing stages of the ninth-place play-off against Fiji, Spanish hopes were dashed by the legendary Jerry Tuwai.
As Spain chased the winning score, Tuwai pounced on a loose ball and raced away to score Fiji’s fourth try and confirm a 26-15 victory. Despite missing out on a place in the quarter-finals, Fiji's performance in Toulouse was good enough to secure qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Earlier, Brian Tanga scored two tries, including a stunning late effort, to help Kenya win the 13th-place play-off 33-12 against Japan.