#RWC7s – New Zealand outlast the world’s best to retain title

It took all of their energy, but New Zealand outlasted the world’s best men’s rugby sevens teams, to retain their Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC7s) title at AT&T Park.

The All Blacks Sevens men’s team survived multiple challenges, over the three-day tournament, before they retained the Melrose Cup on Sunday. That achievement followed close on the victory by the women’s Black Ferns Sevens – a double for New Zealand, and added to the teams’ recent accomplishments.

The New Zealanders become;

  • the first men’s team to achieve back-to-back Rugby World Cup Sevens victories (2013/2018)
  • the first men’s team to hold three RWC7s titles; 2001/2013/2018 (ahead of Fiji with two)
  • it follows their 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold medal win on the Gold Coast.

The men can almost match the New Zealand women, whom also claimed back-to-back victorie and have been unbeaten since April. Each teams win also eased the pain of them not claiming their respective 2018 HSBC Sevens Series. So today’s win is a huge prize that will top players memories of last season.

#RWC7s – New Zealand outlast the worlds best to retain title

For the head coach Clark Laidlaw, this is the culmination of a huge 17 months. From his inception and signing at the end of 2016, through the period prior to him fully taking on the coaching role 12 months ago (after completing his contract with London Irish).

“We are hugely proud, and hugely happy after a massive year, with a massive amount of work from everyone involved,” was the honest remarks from Laidlaw when he spoke to RadioSport. He went on to say, “We’ve got great staff, a great bunch of leaders and some really exciting talent.”

Now, his talented group have risen from the past devastation of losing in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Rio Olympics, to the his sides redemption now in the Cup final against England. The turnaround was made even harder in 2018, as New Zealand had to outlast several International teams, before overcoming England 33-12 in the final game.

(See below for match report)

That Cup final match came only hours after another epic encounter with New Zealand’s perennial rugby sevens foe; Fiji. Placed on their side of the draw, the Kiwi men had already survived Russia and France, before the more daunting Flying Fijians stood tall up against them. That encounter was close to being the peak fixture of this weekend, as Fiji had wanted to avenge the Commonwealth Games loss [14-0].

And the match certainly tested the All Blacks Sevens metal, but two late tries where the accuracy of the All Blacks Sevens bettered a Fijian side, who lacked their usual fluidity and audacious flair.

Fiji would go on to face South Africa in the bronze medal match. It turned out to be a less than impressive outing for the deflated South Seas Islanders. They could not ‘get up’ for the match, which South Africa controlled from start to finish. The Blitzboks; who were splintered by a powerful English team, recovered better, to hold on for a 24-19 victory.

New Zealand defeat England to retain 2013 World Cup title

If the quick opening of the Kiwis proved anything, it was that they would not leave the final without giving it their all. Sione Molia has developed from a fresh faced kid, to being a Commonwealth Games/World Cup winner. Two quick tries gave his side an advantage that – try as they could – England could not close.

Twice, England scored tries to show they had the ammunition. Coming within a score, it could have rattled the 2016 version of the NZ team, but today they had the battle placements to respond. Inspired by the women’s success, the All Blacks Sevens looked more concentrated then ever, were trying just that little bit harder. And when substitute Akuila Rokolisoa sliced through the English defence, he put the game out of reach.

Trael Joass, a player who recovered from a heart condition, to being a conditioned International rugby sevens player, then put the cherry on top. The fifth try encapsulated the weekend for the New Zealand men. They were calm under pressure, used their strengths and accuracy, to become the only back-to-back men’s World Champions (now doesn’t that sound familiar).

Overall, the Black Ferns Sevens were the more accomplished side at this tournament. Their superiority over the majority of other women’s sides, makes them virtually unbeatable. The men had to retain their titles the ‘old fashioned way’. They rolled up their sleeves, worked as a group and can now reap the rewards.

A masterful display, although it was not without it’s stresses. An 8.5/10

New Zealand 33 – Tries: Sione Molia (2), Joe Ravouvou, Akuila Rokolisoa, Trael Joass; Conversions: Kurt Baker (4)

England 12 – Tries: Mike Ellery, Ruaridh McConnochie; Con: Tom Mitchell.

Co-captian Scott Curry was named ‘Player of the Final’ while big Joe Ravouvou as awarded the ‘Mark of Excellence’ for his performance across the weekend (6 tries and countless meters).

Other 2018 RWC7s Results

Chile won the Men’s Bowl for the second World Cup tournament running, after two tries from Pedro Verschae helped them beat Hong Kong 20-7 in the final.

Ireland, quickly becoming the dark horse of International sevens rugby, claimed the Men’s Challenge Trophy. In a triumphant few months, the Irish men topped their HSBC London 7s performance, by taking another huge step by defeating Australia 14-24. They surprised the more accomplished Aussie’s, who had a disappointing weekend. Opposing them, Ireland were too enthusiastic, and romped to a huge victory.

On the women’s side of the draw, with the reduced number of teams, there were only two competitions, and England’s women enjoyed more success than their men. They met the energetic Japanese side in the Women’s Challenge Trophy final. And gladly for the Red Roses, they had the better of their Asian opponents. Winning 31-5 repays the dissatisfaction the group felt, after losing their opening fixture on Friday.

Rugby World Cup Sevens – home of the Elite Players

While the selection of any MVP or group of elite players can be contentious, the addition of several fresh names goes to show how the game is truly Global.

With no room for either Fijian or South African players, the choices from champions New Zealand and England was elementary. But the surprise addition of French player Tavite Veredamu proved LWOR Sevens writer Jovilisi Waqa’s prediction that he would be “one to watch”.

And Josefa Lilidamu is another reflection of the influence that Fiji is having on the sport. When Japan faced Fiji, a total of 11 players of Polynesian descent were part of the squads. And while Japan is a proud nation, as a team the positive input Lilidamu can make is invaluable.

While the transformation of the sport from the ‘carefree days’ to a more professional environment has produced physically impressive athletes, the one ingredient that is still evident, is the brotherhood.

Epitomized best by the act of New Zealand Sevens co-captain Tim Mikkelsen (above). His sportsmanship and lack of self interest, especially at the time when his team had outlasted the world’s best to retain their RWC7s title, was pure class. It earned him praise, and the respect of sports fans everywhere.