Winners and (nearly winners) of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series

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Winners and (nearly winners) of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: All teams pose together during the trophy ceremony at the trohpy at the HSBC Paris Sevens, stage of the Rugby Sevens World Series at Stade Jean Bouin on June 10, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC)

After a fiercely competitive ending, Last Word on Rugby looks at the winners and (nearly winners) of the 2017/18 men’s and women’s HSBC Sevens Series after the Paris 7s tournament.

In a dual close finish, both rugby sevens championships concluded at the Paris 7s, with barely a handful of points separating the top teams. Competitions that were spread over ten legs [men’s] and over five legs [women’s] was thrilling for fans, but full of highs and lows for the competing teams.

Your 2017/18 men’s HSBC Sevens Series Champions

Your 2017/18 women’s HSBC Sevens Series Champions

Winners and (nearly winners) of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series

The victors had to work for their series crown, as the final leg of the HSBC Sevens Series was finely balanced. Jovilisi Waqa previewed the women’s series, as a battle between the Kiwi Black Fern 7s and Australia.

The two sides were only separated by the minimum points, that meant the Aussie women only needed to reach the final – to claim the silverware. And as if to script, the two teams advanced unbeaten through the pool and knockout stages.

In reality, each wanting an opposition team to upset their nearest foe. The Kiwis would have liked Fiji in the quarter-finals, to ‘tip up’ the Aussies. Yet when that did not occur, the series leaders still needed to push past the hosts France.

New Zealand fans will have cheered on the French women, as they took the lead in the semi-final. Holding a three point advantage, it came down to the crucial penalty (see below). At that critical moment, the Aussie women reached the Cup final. And with that, an unassailable lead – and the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series title.

New Zealand did everything in their powers; going unbeaten in the last three tournaments, to steal away the World Series title. But significantly, the fifth place in Dubai and second place in Sydney, counted against them. With only a ‘slim difference’ between first and second tournament points, it became difficult to deny the Australians another title.

Fiji go on ‘title winning run’ and favoured to reclaim crown

Over in the men’s draw, it was a similar story. After the Blitzboks had opened the season with a victory, they found it hard to step back into the winners circle. In fact, they became the bridesmaids of the HSBC Sevens Series – accumulating points appropriately, but never entirely in the spotlight.

Fiji meanwhile, suffering from a worse than possible start, managed to turn they around to be favoured in the final leg, to reclaim their title. A slow start, they in fact had to wait until the New Zealand Sevens, before they could raise the Cup. Denied by hosts USA in Las Vegas, the Fiji men bounced back firmly in Canada. Showing some real class, they then claimed the Hong Kong title (which they seem to own over the last few years) to begin a title winning run. At that stage, Fiji began to show similarity to teams of past years. Gaining in confidence, it was disappointing when denied a Commonwealth Games gold medal – but for most, they still looked the most impressive team.

Fiji then went up to Singapore, wanting to still catch South Africa. The 2016/17 champions had cooled off themselves, and seemed to badly miss Seabelo Senatla and Kwagga Smith. So when Fiji secured the Singapore and London titles, it meant four consecutive titles. And it must have worried South Africa. The Fijian team took a comfortable seven point lead going over the channel…..giving many fans the hope of regaining their World Series title.

Paris 7s – Fiji come unstuck, hand South Africa 2017/18 title

Confidence is a characteristic of winners. Many can foresee themselves holding the title. Goal setting, sides who can conceptualize victory ahead of the moment, more than often are successful. While it has worked for many, at times over confidence can be a weight on the shoulders of sports people.

as the two leading men’s teams advanced toward the Paris 7s knockout rounds, the unexpected would happen.

Kenya, who have not had their recent successes, were the first to trip up the mighty Fijians on Day Two. That placed the Fijians in the path of England, while South Africa benefited from the draw and defeated Spain to reach the semi-final.

Meanwhile, Fiji had to now make every moment count….that was until the English side decided to turn it up!

Stunning Fiji 17-19, England became the giant killers of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens Series. Shocked by the outcome, in fact South Africa were not themselves assured of the title – they still needed to win the cup final, to earn enough points to claim the season ending title. A major semi-final against New Zealand took a momentous effort.

Gladly for the Blitzbok, overcoming the All Blacks Sevens 24-12 put them into the Cup final and emphatically won the Cup final over England 24-14, that resulted in back-to-back HSBC Sevens Series wins for the Neil Powell coached side.

Blitzbok captain pays tribute to Fiji and his teams ‘massive effort’

Phillip Snyman accepted the reward, his second reign as a World Series champion. The congratulations were well deserved, as they were the most consistent side of 2017/18, and earned the gold. And while Fiji were still devastated by their upset loss, they could still be extremely proud of how the Flying Fijians retained their legend; as the team everyone wants to beat.

Just like the Sevens Sisters in the women’s competition, it was not the ‘gold tinged’ feeling that the title winning sides felt.

2017/18 will be remembered for teams that showed performance measures, achieved more than sides who (at times) basked in the limelight. A good lessons for young rugby sevens players to learn – consistency earns the true rewards.

And for the men’s and women’s champions, World Rugby held their 2017/18 Sevens Series awards ceremony on Sunday evening. Click on this link, to view all the awards winners and photographs and video from the annual prize giving.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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