Fiji and Australia were crowned Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 winners in the men’s and women’s events respectively as they both defeated reigning champions New Zealand in two exhilarating finals in Cape Town.
The Flying Fijians claimed a third RWC Sevens title, their first since 2005, by beating an All Blacks side that won the last two tournaments with a superb 29-12 victory in the Championship final.
The Olympic gold medallists battled past HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions Australia in the semi-finals before running in five tries in a fiercely physical final against a New Zealand side who overcame Ireland in the last four.
Australia’s women continued their imperious 2022 form by beating New Zealand in a thrilling final to add a World Cup to the World Rugby Sevens Series and Commonwealth Games titles they’ve already claimed this year.
The top seeds edged their old rivals 24-22 as Maddison Levi ran in a hat-trick, ending double defending champions New Zealand’s 13-match winning run in the RWC Sevens and claiming a first Aussie women’s World Cup since 2009 in Dubai.
“We spoke a lot about the 2009 girls today, doing it for them and everyone back home who has left the legacy before us so we can continue it on,” said Aussie 7s star Charlotte Caslick.
History was made as Ireland’s men claimed their first bronze medal since reaching the semi-finals in 1993, coming from behind twice to beat World Series champions Australia.
France took bronze in the women’s event with a commanding 29-7 win over the USA, as Lili Dezou ran in two tries on a dream starting debut for her country.
There were emotional scenes as South Africa coaching great Neil Powell’s nine-year reign came to an end with a big win over Samoa that earned the hosts a seventh-place finish.
Argentina took fifth thanks to a win over France, while Fijiana did the same in the women’s event with a crushing, tournament-best 53-0 victory over Canada.
England won the men’s Challenge bracket, overcoming Uruguay in the final, while Uganda defeated Germany to claim the Bowl.
In the women’s Challenge final, Japan launched a superb second half comeback to beat Poland.
FEROCIOUS FIJI PUT ON SHOW IN FINAL
Fiji flew out of the blocks as Joseva Talacolo went screaming down the left wing and over the try line inside 30 seconds, before Kaminieli Rasaku charged over in the corner to notch his fourth try of the weekend.
Moses Leo finished a nice passing move from the All Blacks to get them back in it, but they were soon pegged back again as Elia Canakaivata carved open the defence and Filipe Sauturaga dummied and went through to give the Olympic champions a 19-point lead at the break.
Akuila Rokolisoa got the All Blacks off to a good start with a try early in the second half, and Fiji’s problems soon piled up as Talacolo was sin-binned for a high tackle and Waisea Nucuqu was forced off with injury.
Rasaku looked set to stream through for his second try until the ball slipped out of his grasp, and the Fijians then received another yellow card as Sevuloni Mocenacagi was sent to the bin just as Talacolo returned to the fray.
But they survived the testing period without conceding, and Rokolisoa then joined Mocenacagi in the bin for obstruction to make it a six-a-side game with three minutes left.
The Fijians defended ferociously, pushing New Zealand all the way back under their own posts, and they sealed a superb victory with the final play through Pilipo Bukayaro.
AUSTRALIA WIN KNIFE-EDGE FINAL
Australia underlined their status as the team to beat in women’s rugby sevens with a 24-22 victory over their old rivals New Zealand in a thrilling, breathless gold medal match.
The two finalists had conceded just two tries each going into the final, but that didn’t stop them from going all-out in attack in their bid for glory.
Kelly Brazier stretched over the line to give the Black Ferns an early lead, but Australia hit straight back through Maddison Levi.
Caslick’s quick hands then sent Levi over the try line for a second time, but New Zealand fought back through Stacey Fluhler as the Aussie 7s went in at the break with a slender two-point lead.
A yellow card for Niall Williams early in the second half gave Australia a chance, and they took full advantage as the RWC Sevens 2022 top try scorer Faith Nathan scored her ninth try of the weekend before Levi powered down the wing to complete her hat-trick.
That quickfire double gave the Aussies a commanding 14-point advantage with three minutes to go, but the Black Ferns would not give up without a fight and narrowed the gap thanks to a super break and finish from Shiray Kaka.
Australia’s performance was plagued by a high penalty count against them, giving New Zealand repeated chances to attack for a game-levelling score, which they eventually found in the final play when Alena Saili crossed.
Tenika Willison needed to nail the conversion to take the game to extra-time but steered it wide, sparking euphoric scenes from the gold-shirted players.
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IRELAND CLAIM HISTORIC BRONZE
There were joyous scenes of celebration at the final whistle when Ireland edged a nail-biting battle with Australia 19-14 to claim their first RWC Sevens bronze medal since 1993.
The Irish had a tournament to remember, knocking out top seeds and hosts South Africa in the quarter-finals, and they showed all their class in toppling the World Series champions to take a place on the podium.
Australia flyer Corey Toole lit up the first half with a beautiful switch to send Nathan Lawson under the posts and open the scoring, but Sean Cribbin drew Ireland level before the break with a powerful charge over the try line.
More Toole magic restored the Aussie lead when he weaved past defenders before exploding through a gap to dot down.
But Ireland responded with outstanding individual quality of their own, as Terry Kennedy, the World Series try scorer last season, nudged a grubber kick through a gap and got there first to touch down.
Kennedy’s footwork was again crucial as he somehow kept a passing move going by flicking a leg at a loose ball to shift it out wide, where Harry McNulty was on hand to dive in the corner with the winning score.
DEZOU STARS AS FRANCE TAKE BRONZE
Lili Dezou enjoyed a dream starting debut for France, crossing the try line twice as Les Bleues emphatically claimed bronze with a 29-7 win over USA.
Dezou snaffled up an offload to go over early on, before pouncing again in a clinical, dominant first half where the French scored two tries from two visits to the American 22.
Naya Tapper got the USA back in it with a strong burst over the try line, but she was then sent to the sin bin and France took advantage as Alycia Chrystiaens crossed to extend their lead.
The in-form Joanna Grisez and Ian Jason added further scores to top off a strong performance.
Fiji were in destructive mood in the fifth-place play-off as they crushed Canada 53-0 in the biggest win of the RWC Sevens 2022.
Fijiana roared into a 34-0 lead by half time and barely reduced their intensity after the break as Reapi Uluisau ran in a hat-trick in a nine-try victory.
England and Ireland faced off for seventh place after defeats to Canada (7-22) and (0-24) Fiji respectively earlier in the day, and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe bagged a brace as the Irish ran out 26-10 winners.
POWELL BOWS OUT
Argentina finished off a strong RWC Sevens showing by taking fifth place, beating hosts South Africa 26-19 before coming from behind to edge France 10-7 in the 5/6 placement match. Les Bleus made it there courtesy of a 24-17 win against Samoa.
A place in the 7/8 match wasn’t what the top-seeded Blitzboks had hoped for heading into the weekend, but they at least finished with a flourish, defeating Samoa 35-5 to send coaching great Neil Powell off on a high before he heads into a new role in the 15s game.
Signs were held up by fans in the stadium to pay tribute to the South Africa coach, who is set to step down after leading his country to a host of honours over a nine-year period, including two Commonwealth Games gold medals, an Olympic bronze medal and three World Rugby Sevens Series titles.
Asked what he is most proud of from his time in charge, Powell said: “For me it was always about the culture of the team, the people in the team.”
“Our young men that have grown into adults and walked out of there mature, disciplined and respectful. It was great to be part of it and I’m so honoured for the time I’ve spent in this system.”
ALL BLACKS EDGE PAST IRELAND
Ireland pushed New Zealand all the way in their semi-final meeting, as the men in green looked to back up their superb quarter-final victory over South Africa with a first-ever win against the All Blacks.
The reigning champions got off to the perfect start when Ngarohi McGarvey-Black scored two tries in the opening two minutes, benefiting from some ferocious work at the breakdown.
But a yellow card for Moses Leo gave the Irish a lifeline and they took full advantage as Jack Kelly and Andrew Smith scored either side of the break to level the match at 10-10.
The All Blacks turned to their star performer in their time of need, though, as McGarvey-Black skipped through two tackles to complete his hat-trick and clinch a 17-10 win.
Fiji showcased their flair and speed as they blew away Australia with a 38-14 semi-final win to reach their first RWC Sevens final since 2005.
The Flying Fijians’ famous offloading game put the World Series winners to the sword as they ran in six mesmerising tries with six different scorers, notching 19 points in each half.
BLACK FERNS CRUISE THROUGH
New Zealand’s women booked their place in the final with a confident and clinical 38-7 win over France.
Black Ferns speedster Michaela Blyde burst through from her own 22-metre line for the opening try, but Grisez soon responded.
However, the reigning champions then turned on the style as Blyde crossed for a second time and Sarah Hirini scored before half time. Shiray Kaka bagged two tries, either side of a Jazmin Felix-Hotham score, after the break.
Australia progressed to their first RWC Sevens final since 2009 with a 17-7 win over the USA that was lit up by their talisman Charlotte Caslick.
The Aussie 7s star cut through the American defence to go under the posts and open the scoring, before striking again early in the second half by finishing a well-executed set piece move.
USA, who managed to survive without conceding points while Jaz Gray was in the sin bin in the first half, pulled one back through Nicole Heavirland, but a show-and-go from Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea ensured an Aussie win in the final minute.
ENGLAND TAKE CHALLENGE CROWN
England bowed out on a high by winning the Challenge bracket with a 28-5 victory over Uruguay, in their final match before teaming up with Wales and Scotland to form a Great Britain Sevens team for next season.
Tom Mitchell produced a superb individual try, goose-stepping round one defender before chasing and gathering his own grubber kick to score, while Tom Bowen finished with a flourish by storming down the left wing to notch England’s fourth try in the final play.
USA legend Perry Baker marked his final RWC Sevens appearance in typically clinical fashion, scoring two tries in a 26-19 victory for the Eagles over Kenya that secured 11th place.
Canada finished 13th, beating Chile 12-10 in their play-off match in spectacular fashion by coming back from a 10-0 half-time deficit to win.
There was a dramatic ending to the 15/16 placement match between Scotland and Wales; the Scots led at the death, but Kaleem Baretto picked up a late yellow card and Wales profited with a 16th-minute match-winning try from Iestyn Garin Rees.
JAPAN FIGHT BACK IN CHALLENGE FINAL
There was a dramatic conclusion to the women’s Challenge final, as Japan completed a comeback to beat Poland 17-12.
The Poles, who defeated China and Spain for their first RWC Sevens wins on Saturday, raced into a 12-0 half-time lead through Malgorzata Koldej and Anna Klichowska tries.
But the Japanese fought back, led by the in-form speedster Wakaba Hara, who scored two tries and Yume Hirano another to complete an impressive turnaround.
Brazil took 11th place with a narrow 19-17 win over Spain, while hosts South Africa fell just short in the 13/14 place match, losing 21-19 to China.
But the story of the Challenge bracket came in the battle for 15th, as debutants Madagascar earned their historic first RWC Sevens victory by beating Colombia 19-12.
UGANDA TAKE BOWL
There were scenes of celebration on the pitch and in the stands when Uganda clinched a 19-12 victory over Germany to win the Men’s Bowl competition thanks to tries from Philip Wokorach, Ian Munyani and Michael Okorach.
In the remaining placement matches, Hong Kong finished strongly by beating Tonga 19-0 to take 19th place, Korea edged Portugal 12-10 to finish 21st and Zimbabwe avoided the wooden spoon by beating Jamaica 31-17 in the 23/24 place match.