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It’s advantage New Zealand at the top of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 standings following two action-packed days at Singapore Sports Hub.
The All Blacks Sevens made it two tournament wins in as many weekends as they beat Argentina in the Cup final to win the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens for the first time since 2005, having earlier booked their ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
But what did results in Singapore mean for the race to join New Zealand in Paris next year, or for the battle to avoid relegation?
We recap seven things we learned from an enthralling weekend.
Majestic New Zealand close on title
It now seems like a matter of when rather than if for New Zealand following a fourth gold medal in five tournaments.
Victory against Argentina in the Cup final in Singapore was secured with a real team performance as tries from Dylan Collier, Moses Leo and Brady Rush were backed up by uncompromising defence.
The result at Singapore Sports Hub means the All Blacks Sevens will seal a 14th Series title if they finish in the top two in Toulouse next month.
Los Pumas Sevens remain their closest, and only realistic, challengers for the overall crown but with a 24-point deficit and only 42 points left to play for, it would require a remarkable set of results in Toulouse and London to stop New Zealand.
Marcos Moneta is human
It was another try-laden weekend for Marcos Moneta as the winger crossed the whitewash six times to help Argentina win the silver medal.
Moneta is now only three tries behind Samoa co-captain Vaa Apelu Maliko, who crossed four times in Singapore to take his 2023 Series tally to 37.
His tries came at vital moments on Los Pumas Sevens’ run to the final too, including the golden-point score that edged Samoa in the semi-finals.
In the final, though, there was some evidence that Moneta might be human after all. Attempting to exploit a two-on-one at the end of the first half, the winger threw a pass straight into touch.
No new bronze age for Samoa
Following disappointing results in Vancouver and Hong Kong, Samoa put themselves right back in contention for a ticket to Paris with a fourth-place finish in Singapore.
Denied a place in the Cup final by Argentina’s late comeback in the semi-finals, Samoa then built a 19-7 lead in the second half of the bronze final against Fiji only to see that advantage wiped out too.
The 24-19 defeat to Fiji extended the team’s long wait for a bronze medal. Samoa have lost the last 10 bronze finals they have contested in the Series, their last victory in the match coming in Port Elizabeth back in December 2013.
Advantage Uruguay in bid for safety, just
We now know the identity of 10 of the 12 teams that will compete in the 2024 men’s Series after Great Britain made the Cup quarter-finals for a fifth consecutive tournament.
Ahead of the final tournament before the relegation picture is decided, we also know that the 11th team will be one of Uruguay, Spain or Kenya.
Uruguay climbed out of the relegation play-off places by joining Great Britain in the Cup quarter-finals, but they will travel to Toulouse only a point better off than Spain, who finished ninth over the weekend.
Kenya – beaten by Spain in the ninth-place play-off in Singapore – could still mathematically leapfrog both teams but with a 12-point gap to Uruguay, they need a big result in Toulouse.
The three core teams ranked 12th to 14th after Toulouse will contest a four-team play-off tournament in London, with the winner of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series 2023, to determine the final side to qualify for the 2024 Series.
Japan finally find some form
Japan’s relegation from the Series might still be confirmed in Toulouse next month but coach Simon Amor will be pleased with the fight his team displayed in Singapore.
Needing a performance at Singapore Sports Hub, Japan beat Ireland and Hong Kong China before losing to Kenya in the ninth-place semi-final.
With Canada losing the 13th-place play-off, the gap from Japan to the relegation play-off places is down to eight points with one tournament to play before their fate is known.
Japan need to reach the Cup quarter-finals in Toulouse to have any chance of climbing out of the automatic relegation spot and into the play-off places but at least they now have hope.
Australia climb into Olympic spots
New Zealand secured qualification for Paris 2024 in Singapore, while it is likely Argentina will take the second ticket and Fiji could grab the third in Toulouse.
Australia climbed back into the fourth and final qualification spot by winning the fifth-place play-off, but they are far from assured of staying there by the time the 2023 Series finishes in London.
Samoa are a solitary point behind Australia, while South Africa are five further back. There is now a 12-point gap between the Blitzboks and the USA, who are two ahead of Ireland.
With 42 points up for grabs in Toulouse and London, it means every match matters for those involved.
Baker is still a match-winner
If anyone needed a reminder of Perry Baker’s enduring quality, they received it at Singapore Sports Hub as the 36-year-old became the tournament’s all-time leading try scorer.
Baker crossed the whitewash eight times in what was a disappointing tournament for the USA, scoring braces against Kenya, France, Ireland and Canada.
His final two tries, scored in the closing three minutes of the 13th-place play-off against Canada, ensured the USA at least ended the weekend on a high.
They also took his personal tally at the Singapore Rugby Sevens to 25 – more than any other player in the history of the tournament, overtaking South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi (22).