Perth proved a fitting host for HSBC SVNS 2024 as Argentina men and Ireland women won the inaugural Cup finals at HBF Park following three enthralling days of rugby sevens.
The shocks, surprises and golden-point drama that unfolded on the pitch were matched by a celebratory atmosphere in the stands as Western Australia welcomed SVNS with open arms.
And as the players enjoy some well-deserved rest and the series prepares to decamp to Vancouver next month, we recap the best of the action from HSBC SVNS Perth.
Perth is a hit
Debuts don’t come much better than Perth’s entry to the HSBC SVNS calendar as HBF Park served up an epic weekend of action in Western Australia.
Evidence of that arrived midway through Saturday’s Cup quarter-finals, when it was announced that tickets for Sunday’s final day had sold out.
That would not have been a surprise to anyone who had watched the previous two days, with upsets in both the men’s and women’s tournaments as the 24 teams served up an incredible advert for rugby sevens.
Off the pitch, the weekend was just as impressive and those lucky enough to get tickets in ‘The Shed’ certainly came to party, creating an atmosphere to rival any on the series – even Hong Kong Stadium’s famous South Stand.
Many of those 20,000-plus fans who made the journey out to Boorloo on Sunday were denied a fairytale finish as Australia were denied in both Cup finals.
Australia’s women, who dropped points for the first time this season having finished second on home soil, still increased their lead at the top of the standings and now have a 12-point cushion over second-placed New Zealand.
In Perth, Charlotte Caslick and Co had to overcome the early setback of losing to Great Britain but rebounded impressively to win an intense quarter-final against the Black Ferns Sevens before easing past USA in the semi-finals.
The final proved a step too far, however, as it did for their male counterparts – who had lost twice during the pool stage before clicking into gear in the knockout stages. Argentina were too good in the final for the second successive tournament but the result lifted the team level on points with second-placed Fiji in the men's standings.
Large sections of HBF Park were decked out in green across the three days, while the stadium DJ needed few excuses to queue up ‘Zombie’ – the Cranberries song that has become synonymous with Irish rugby. And there were plenty of excuses to hit play.
Ireland’s women were in irresistible form in Perth, scoring 19 tries from only 21 visits to the opposition 22 as they claimed their first-ever series tournament title. Three of their five victories, including the final against Australia, were secured by five points or fewer.
Following several seasons in which they have emerged as series contenders this was the crowning moment for the likes of Lucy Mulhall, Eve Higgins and Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe.
Ireland’s men also enjoyed a hard-fought win against the hosts, but their own quest for gold ran into the steam train that is Argentina at the moment. They recovered to beat Fiji in the bronze final and move into the top five in the standings.
Majestic Murphy Crowe
No one who watches rugby sevens will need to be alerted to Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe’s prolific talents but her achievements in Perth deserve a special mention.
Murphy Crowe’s six tries – including Ireland’s first in their historic final victory against Australia – put her top of the tournament try-scoring chart.
And her finish in the showpiece match, bursting onto a pop pass from Beibhinn Parsons on halfway and sprinting away into space and over the try-line, means no woman has scored more series tries than her in Australia.
That was Murphy Crowe’s 33rd try in Australia, putting her one ahead of New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde who has crossed the whitewash 32 times in series tournaments held in the country.
Isgro returns in style
The return of World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2023 Rodrigo Isgro was always going to be a boost for Argentina in Perth, and so it proved as Los Pumas Sevens won their second successive tournament.
Isgro’s importance to Argentina was highlighted by the fact that only two men made more carries across the weekend than his 24, while he was joint-sixth on the list of offloads (six), joint-fourth in line-breaks (four) and helped himself to four tries as well.
No one profited more from those offloads and breaks than Isgro’s good friend Marcos Moneta. The pair’s understanding was as telepathic as ever as the latter finished the tournament with an incredible nine tries and seven line-breaks.
Los Pumas Sevens sit proudly at the top of the men’s standings with three tournaments played, their 58 points giving them a healthy 14-point lead over Fiji and Australia beneath them.
Great Britain women on the up
Great Britain’s women will hope that a second bronze final victory, and second in five tournaments, can be a springboard to sustained success in HSBC SVNS 2024.
Their impressive run to bronze in Perth, which included a first-ever win against Australia on day one, was built on a solid defence.
Emma Uren topped the tackle chart at HBF Park (20), while her team-mate Amy Wilson Hardy was joint-third with 17. Three of Great Britain’s victories came by a score or less, but they were clinical when opportunities presented themselves, scoring their 13 tries from only 16 entries into the opposition 22.
The bronze medal comes with 16 precious series points, elevating Great Britain to eighth in the women’s standings and giving them a 10-point cushion over Brazil in ninth. We will find out in Vancouver whether this is the start of something potentially special.
Spain need a lift
Spain’s men and women endured contrasting fortunes in Perth, but both teams remain mired in the bottom four in the respective standings.
Los Leones snuck into the men’s Cup quarter-finals with victory over Canada in the final Pool A match and then gave eventual winners Argentina an almighty scare in the knockouts, their 28-17 defeat a lot closer than that scoreline suggests.
Defeat to USA followed to leave Spain’s men eighth and the six competition points they left Perth with lifted them off the bottom of the standings to 11th but still five points from guaranteed safety.
It may be early in the season but Spain’s women need a positive result in Vancouver next time to change the momentum of their season. Las Leonas surrendered possession more than any other team in Perth, defeat to Japan in the 11th-place play-off leaving them bottom of the standings with only four points.