City of Love gives way to Fiji Sevens magic
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 02: Fidji players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Series Championship at the HCSB Sevens, stage of the Rugby Sevens World Series at Stade Jean Bouin on June 02, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC)

They have tried their best in the last three years but it had to be ‘fourth times a charm’ for the City of Love to finally give in to the charisma, pure passion, and Fiji Sevens magic.

The Final Round of the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series was held at the Stade Jean-Bouin this weekend. It was full of excitement on, and off the field. With all the ingredients on display in Paris – the City of Love – there was plenty of rugby sevens love on display, as well sacrifice, determination to fight the odds, relentlessness to compete, and the faith in each other and God to see it through.

When the dust settled, there could only be one winner, and this season it was Fiji taking the World Series crown.

The atmosphere was electrifying for all teams, with the hosts doing very well to win fifth place and end the season with ‘high hopes’. Nobody could stop the Fiji Sevens magic though, as the Olympic champions triumphed for their fourth series title.

City of Love gives way to Fiji Sevens magic

Fiji claimed the 2018/19 HSBC Sevens Series title after they outclassed fellow Sevens Series contenders the United States, 33-14 in the semifinals. Even with the express services of Perry Baker and Carlin Isles, they just weren’t able to overcome the Fiji Sevens magic. After the loss of Folau Niua to injury. Ben Pikelmann, Stephen Tomasin, Kevon Williams and Madison Hughes tried to rally their team but, to no avail.

Hosts France were the only team to scare Fiji during the weekend. In the cup quarterfinals, France led 24-5 and could have shattered Fijians hopes but, once again the South Seas Islanders ‘woke in the second half’ to blow them away.

A highly competitive tournament, with Team USA having to fight tooth and nail to beat Kenya. The African men were desperate, and that helped them to earn valuable points in Paris.

By the time of the Cup final, New Zealand had to settle for Silver after succumbing to the Fiji sevens magic 35-14. It was Fiji’s first victory in four years of trying, in the City of Love. New Zealand were unable to close the series points gap on USA, even after the Mike Friday coached men were beaten for the bronze medal.

South Africa defeated USA to win bronze, France outclassed the Samoa 40-5 for fifth place. Canada got up over Ireland 28-23 to win the Challenge Trophy [Ireland were the invitational side in France]. Something to smile for the Maple Leafs, although the men from the Emerald Isles showed yet again, they are the most impressive debut side in modern Sevens history.

Scotland crossed the line in extra-time, to settle for 13th spot, to end Japan’s hopes, 33-26.

Big improvers Spain, Samoa, and France all showed better consistency at the end of this season. France and Samoa each appeared in a final, which gives them huge motivation for next season and the regional qualifiers.

Japan will be relegated next season, as Ireland officially become a core side in 2019/20.

HSBC Paris Sevens accolades

HSBC Player of the Final – Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)

DHL Impact Player of the Tournament – Jean Pascal Barraque (France)

UL Mark of Excellence Award – Gareth Baber (Fiji head coach).

Final season standings: Fiji 186 | USA 177 | New Zealand 162 | South Africa 148

The celebrations continued for all the sides involved in this year’s sevens series. The annual World Rugby Sevens Series Awards night honoured the successes over the ten tournaments.

DHL Impact Player of the Series – Vilimoni Botitu (Fiji)

Capgemini Coach of the Series – Mike Friday (USA)

Gilbert Rugby Try scorer of the Series – 52: Carlin Isles (USA)

UL Mark of Excellence of the Series – Danny Barrett (USA)

Champions Fiji and the USA dominated the field over this season. The best ever finish for the North Americans and a sign of ‘good things to come’.

The Last Word on the 2018/19 Sevens Series

It has been an enthralling Series, to be honest. The progress, the competitiveness, camaraderie and the reach of the Series have left us in awe. Who would have had thought the United States to fight for the Series until the end? That was fantastic to witness.

France and Samoa look to be on a comeback trail to sevens-success, although England is letting Great Britain down, after failing to Qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. By comparison, Spain was consistent in the opening four rounds with Australia and Argentina then struggling for consistency. Kenya and Wales ended the series fighting for survival – which was a new experience for Kenya fans. But it was a fight worth having, as followers had to wait right up until Paris, for Japan to sadly not survive the cull.

New Zealand and South Africa tried out some new talent in 2018/19, with goals set for the Olympics. The Fiji sevens magic was shared with many new faces too. They had three rookies who could all have won in the shortlist of the Rookie of the Series.

Johnny Vaili reignited the Samoans passion for Sevens rugby, hoping to see them flourish next season. The look of elation from him and his teammates when they defeated New Zealand, was an example of what makes the sport great.

His and other player’s success shows that the natural evolution of the game will always find new names to entertain fans around the world.

Ongoing dreams of competing at the Tokyo Olympics

Those sides who did not finish in the top four places, now have the task of competing in their respective Regional Qualifiers for an Olympic berth.

Just five places have been secured, as hosts Japan joins Fiji, USA, South Africa, and New Zealand. This will see six tournaments scheduled across the rugby globe; from Asia to Africa, South and North America and Oceania and Europe.

That will be followed by a final Olympic qualifier planned for June 2020 – the ‘last chance’ for any International side to join the others in Tokyo.

While we eagerly await the arrival of the feisty Irish men into the 2019/20 HSBC World Sevens Series, it has been a pleasure for us at LWOR Sevens department to bring you the Men’s World Sevens Series…. we will see you all again next season.

But before that, don’t forget to join look forward to the 2018/19 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series finale, to be held at the HSBC France Sevens in Biarritz.

The Black Ferns Sevens as favorites of course, but in this game, anything could happen in that seven-minute period.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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