To end with a Haka meant one thing for the HSBC Canada Sevens Rugby competition. A win for the All Blacks. The New Zealand Rugby Sevens team came out on top of 15 other nations competing over this week-end’s Round 6 of the international circuit. In an exciting final, they won, three tries to two, against South Africa. Final score, 19-14.
The All Blacks were presented with a fabulous cultural trophy by representatives of the Coast Salish Nations on whose territory the venue for the tournament, BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), is located. This cedar-wood carved vessel has embedded, retired Canadian pennies in the rim and a Killer Whale emblem around the outer surface. The All Blacks reciprocated their well-earned gift and prize with Maori cultural respect with a sans jerseys post-match performance of their famous Ka mate, Ka mate.
To reach this point, New Zealand won their three Pool D games against England, France and USA. After taking on Samoa in the Quarter Finals, they beat Australia in the semis. South Africa made their way through their Pool C games with wins against Scotland, Brazil and Argentina and then on through Quarter and Semi-Final matches against Wales and Fiji.
This is the first time the HSBC Sevens World Series has come to Canada. The response from rugby fans was huge. A sell-out 60,000 plus crowd turned up over the two days to watch 45 games at BC Place underneath a closed roof (too much Pacific Coast rain) in downtown Vancouver. 44 of these games were 14 minute exhibitions of top notch, fast paced and entertaining rugby. And the remaining one, the final? A 20 minute exhibition of…….you got it…
There can be no doubt that, with the HSBC World Series expanding and the return of the sport (as men’s and women’s Sevens) to the Olympics this year in Rio, that Rugby Sevens is getting bigger and better. Here are some of my highlights from this fabulous festival of rugby.
So many to choose from so here are two picks. The first is to New Zealand’s Kurt Baker (see above) for the second try in the All Blacks 7s win in the final. The second is to Gavin Lowe of Scotland in their Quarter Final game against Australia (who won 24-17). This is for the team effort, a creative punch pass from the touch line that allowed him to storm in from about 20 metres out. Brilliant.
Best Hat Trick
This one goes to Canada’s Nathan Hirayama for his three tries scored against Brazil in their Quarter Final Bowl game (Canada won 19-0).
A hard one to select from all the dressed up parties and individuals. There were folks dressed up as playing cards, cows, lumberjacks, Neanderthals, minions and more. I have two awards. One is collectively for Fiji’s fans who made this such a party with their Polynesian spirit, singing and celebrating.
The second is in celebration of young rugby fans, hopefully players of the future like this young fellow supporting South Africa, the team that very nearly won the week-end’s competition.
Best Phases of Play
At the risk of national bias, I am going again for Canada. The final siren had sounded in their Bowl Final versus France but the rules of Sevens allow you to keep playing until the ball goes dead. The Canadian team played what must have been more than 20 phases to keep possession until Captain John Moonlight banged the ball over the try line to snatch victory, 19-17. Sweet Chariots!
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