For the second successive year, New Zealand did the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens double as the event said farewell to Hong Kong Stadium in style.

Both teams will hope their Cup final victories can provide them with momentum ahead of the final tournament of the HSBC SVNS 2024 regular season, in Singapore next month, and the Grand Final in Madrid.

But the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens were not the only stories in Hong Kong as Terry Kennedy helped Ireland’s men capitalise on Argentina’s stumble and Ilona Maher drove the USA Women’s Eagles Sevens on to a silver medal.

Here is what we learned from another thrilling three days of rugby sevens action at Hong Kong Stadium.

Kaka makes young fan’s day

Having played a pivotal role in the Cup final victory that took New Zealand top of the women’s HSBC SVNS 2024 standings – and finished second in the women’s impact player table – Shiray Kaka made her way to Hong Kong Stadium’s north-west tunnel.

Once there she identified a young fan, took off her gold winner’s medal and threw it up to her. It was an act of kindness befitting the occasion as the Hong Kong Sevens signed off from life at the iconic venue.

“She’s been cheering for me all weekend,” Kaka told reporters. “She does have an Australian jersey on though so it’s kind of a feel-sorry kind of thing as well.

“She’s so cute. She’s like a full Australian fan and just loving rugby so I just want to make sure kids like that stay with rugby so that’s why I gave it to her.”

Following their 36-7 Cup final victory against USA, which came on the back of a 28-14 defeat of Australia earlier on Sunday, the Black Ferns Sevens are now level on 106 points with their trans-Tasman rivals but crucially top of the standings on points difference with one round of the regular season to play.

Their third successive tournament title was earned the hard way as a pool-stage defeat to France put them on semi-final collision course with Australia but that 26-21 loss aside they are clearly hitting form at the right time.

All Blacks Sevens make a statement

We won’t know until Singapore whether Hong Kong proved a turning point for the All Blacks Sevens, but there is no denying the size of their achievement over the weekend.

Missing Leroy Carter, Akuila Rokolisoa, Sam Dickson and Tim Mikkelson – and off the back of a 10th-place finish in Los Angeles – New Zealand reeled off six consecutive wins in Hong Kong to defend their title and claim their first gold medal this season.

Regan Ware ended the tournament as the top male tackler (18), while Tone Ng Shiu scored four tries and Tepaea Cook-Savage contributed 22 points and 14 tackles to the cause.

While the All Blacks Sevens were their usually dogged selves in defence – making a tournament high 89 tackles – they were also clinical in attack.

Only France (25) worked their way into the opposition 22 on more occasions than New Zealand (22) and the All Blacks Sevens scored 17 tries from those visits.

The result lifts New Zealand to fifth in the men’s standings and has them looking up just as the business end of the season appears on the horizon.

Hooper takes first steps in SVNS

With Antoine Dupont back in Toulouse, helping his club into the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, fans at Hong Kong Stadium were treated to the introduction to sevens of another test legend: Australia’s Michael Hooper.

The former Wallabies captain was used primarily as a replacement across the weekend, before earning his first SVNS start in the third-place play-off against Ireland on Sunday.

Hooper admitted the role of super-sub is one he is not used to, but he enjoyed himself in Hong Kong and will head to Singapore better for the experience, having helped Australia to their best result since Perth. One that secured their place in the top eight.

“How quick the game is,” Hooper said when asked what he had learned. “It’s over in a flash.

“Probably it being like real rugby… I felt good out there, I felt like I could compete.

“There are some areas of the game that I think I can get a lot better at for sure; how I link with other players and when I can impact the game. It was a good weekend.”

Maher leads the way for USA

USA built on their home bronze medal in Los Angeles last time out with their best result of the season so far, losing the women’s Cup final to New Zealand.

And their run to the showpiece match was powered in no small part by another all-action performance from Ilona Maher.

Maher finished the weekend at Hong Kong Stadium top of the impact player table, having contributed a huge 22 tackles, three breaks, five offloads and a lung-busting 24 carries to the Women’s Eagles Sevens’ cause.

There was also a try in the Cup quarter-final win against Fijiana and again in the semi-final defeat of France. The latter came at a crucial juncture and wrestled momentum back from Les Bleues Sevens immediately after Chloe Jacquet had crossed the whitewash.

Kennedy keeps Ireland moving forward

Terry Kennedy has enjoyed a stellar return to the series this season and that run of form continued at Hong Kong Stadium.

The World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2022 led the tournament in Hong Kong in carries (28) and offloads (eight) while only Argentina’s Rodrigo Isgro scored more than his five tries.

Kennedy’s standout moment came in the Cup quarter-final against USA as his hat-trick of tries, which included a sensational match-winning score, edged his side to a 24-19 win.

Not a lot seemed on when Kennedy received the ball in the final play of the quarter-final. However, his chip ahead took three American defenders out of the game and his pace enabled him to win the race to the ball and send Ireland to the semi-finals.

It was an intervention that ultimately helped keep Ireland in the hunt for the League Winners title.

League Winners race heating up

With only one tournament left to go in the regular season, in Singapore from 3-5 May, the race for both the League Winners title and guaranteed SVNS safety is almost run.

At the top of the women’s standings only points difference separate New Zealand in first with second-placed Australia.

With France 18 points adrift of the top two, it looks as though a straight fight between the trans-Tasman rivals to become the League Winners at Singapore National Stadium.

In the men’s standings, Argentina’s failure to make the Cup quarter-finals in Hong Kong – the first time Los Pumas Sevens have fallen at the pool stage since Sydney in January 2023 – has opened the door to Ireland.

Harry McNulty and Co finished third for the third time in four tournaments and are now eight points behind Los Pumas Sevens with 20 to play for in Singapore.

Teams jostling for top eight

Perry Baker’s 284th series try could prove pivotal in USA’s bid to secure their place in the top eight for the Grand Final in Madrid, and their inclusion in SVNS 2025.

Baker’s 13th-minute contribution gave the Men’s Eagles Sevens a 19-17 victory in the seventh-place play-off on Sunday and crucially stretched the gap between eighth-placed USA and Great Britain in ninth to seven points. Los Leones Sevens are a further four points back in 10th.

The outlook for Great Britain is better in the women’s standings, after they doubled their cushion over ninth-placed Brazil to two points with a 14-5 victory against them in the ninth-place play-off.

Great Britain beat Brazil twice at Hong Kong Stadium – having also overcome them during the pool stage – but missed out on the Cup quarter-finals for the third straight tournament, on points difference to Ireland.

Brazil, who have reached three quarter-finals – to Great Britain’s two – this season, will be confident they can overturn their two-point deficit at the Singapore National Stadium, having outperformed their European rivals in half of the six tournaments so far.

Mei Ohtani’s late try in the seventh-place play-off against Ireland gives Japan hope of a late surge into the top eight, although they will start Singapore nine points adrift of Great Britain.