Men’s World Rugby Sevens Series title race heating up as women prepare to return in Langford
We recap a pulsating fortnight of men’s Series action and look ahead to the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens, which kicks off on 30 April.
The race to win the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 is wide open following two pulsating weekends of action in Singapore and Vancouver.
South Africa continue to lead the way but their cushion at the top of the standings has been cut to just six points following Argentina’s win in Canada.
Marcos Moneta was the star of the show at BC Place, scoring two tries in the 29-10 Cup final win against Fiji to take his tally for the tournament to 10.
Victory gave the Argentineans a first Series gold medal since 2009, when current coach Santiago Gómez Cora’s nine tries helped the team to Cup success in San Diego.
"There are sparks flying out of those boots!" ⚡️— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) April 17, 2022
Marcos Moneta was on a different level for @lospumas7arg in their Cup semi-final#Canada7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/WmtkQY3ALJ
“You have to dream because dreams come true,” Gómez Cora said following Argentina’s win in Vancouver, and as the men’s Series heads back to Europe, to Toulouse, he would be forgiven for fantasising about leading the team to a maiden Series title.
South Africa will hope to use the time between now and kick-off in south-west France on 20 May to put their performances in Singapore and Vancouver behind them as they target getting back to winning ways.
Having won six Series events in a row, the Blitzboks’ 36-match unbeaten run came to an end in Singapore when they lost to the USA, and they failed to get past the Cup quarter-finals at either the National Stadium or BC Place.
Both Argentina and Australia are now primed to capitalise on any further slip-ups from the Blitzboks.
Maurice Longbottom’s late conversion of Nathan Lawson’s try at BC Place secured a second successive bronze medal for Australia, who recovered from going 19-7 down against Samoa to win 21-19. John Manenti’s side are third in the standings, 11 points behind South Africa with three tournaments to play.
There are realistically not enough tournaments left in the 2022 Series for Fiji to mount a title challenge, but the past two weekends belonged to the Olympic champions as they claimed 41 points out of a possible 44.
Ben Gollings’ side, who missed January’s tournaments in Malaga and Seville, lost their opening match of their comeback, 21-12 against Ireland, but rebounded impressively to win their next 10 in a row across Singapore and Vancouver.
That run enabled them to claim the Cup title in Singapore, their first Series gold medal since February 2020, and took them to the final at BC Place, in which they lost to Argentina.
Vuviawa Naduvalo had never left Fiji prior to being selected for Singapore and Vancouver, and started the defeat to Ireland on the bench, but he became a star over the course of the two tournaments, scoring 16 tries in 12 matches.
“People see him scoring the tries but the work he did to put himself in the position to score the tries was really positive from my standpoint,” Gollings told World Rugby about Naduvalo following his statement performance in Singapore.
One winger at the other end of their career is Dan Norton, who announced in Vancouver that the tournament at BC Place would his last.
Thank you, @Dan_Norton4 🏴#Canada7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/v0wLByKrq2— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) April 18, 2022
Norton scored his 358th and last Series try in England’s crucial 19-12 defeat of Kenya on Saturday, that secured his side’s passage to the Cup quarter-finals, but there was to be no fairy tale finish as Argentina won their last-eight clash 40-17.
Black Ferns Sevens set to return in Langford
Focus will now move around 125 kilometres south of BC Place to Westhills Stadium in Langford, where the women’s Series returns on 30 April.
Australia remain the team to beat, having won three of the four tournaments in 2022 and they will hope to continue that form despite the imminent return of the Black Ferns Sevens.
After New Zealand’s men ended their own two-year wait for Series action in Singapore and Vancouver, the nation’s women are scheduled to contest their first tournament since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Black Ferns Sevens could not have picked a better place to make their comeback, having won four of the five HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens titles that have been contested. England are the only other team to have triumphed in Langford, back in 2016.
Having waited three years to welcome the women’s Series back to Vancouver Island, the hosts are looking forward to putting on a party at Westhills Stadium.
“Canada Sevens is always super exciting because I have friends and family in the crowd and the ambience is amazing,” Canada star Pamphinette Buisa told World Rugby last month.
“To share that moment with not just our team, but all the other teams and the crowd as well, it's going to be awesome to come back again and show the world our home.”