Australia and Fiji were crowned women’s and men’s world champions respectively after claiming exhilarating victories at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.
The all-conquering Australian women added Rugby World Cup Sevens glory to their recent Commonwealth Games and World Series victories to secure a hattrick of major titles and cap an unstoppable 2022.
The women’s final came to a nail-biting conclusion as a hat-trick of tries from Maddison Levi and one from tournament top scorer Faith Nathan were just enough to see the women in green and gold to victory as the unfortunate Tenika Willison failed with a conversion attempt that would have put the match into extra time following New Zealand tries by Kelly Brazier, Shiray Kaka, Stacey Fluhler and Alena Saili.
Double Olympic champions Fiji got off to a flying start in the men’s final with four first-half tries from Joseva Talacolo, Kaminieli Rasaku, Elia Canakaivata and Filipe Sauturaga. New Zealand got on the scoreboard through tries from Moses Leo and Akuila Rokolisoa amid a flurry of yellow cards in a hotly contested match.
The Fijians defended ferociously, pushing New Zealand all the way back under their own posts, and sealed a superb victory with the final play through a fifth try from Pilipo Bukayaro.
Fiji lifted the Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy for the third time, having previously won in both editions hosted in Hong Kong in 1997 and 2005, they now join New Zealand on three wins.
For Australia’s women it was their second world title, having won the inaugural women’s tournament in 2009 in Dubai, and they draw equal with rivals New Zealand on two cup wins.
The innovative ‘winner takes all’ knock-out competition format meant that to take home top honours a team had to win every time they entered the pitch and both Fiji’s men and Australia’s women made no mistake to maintain a perfect record over three intense days of competition.
Before the finals took place there were ecstatic scenes of celebration as Ireland’s men made history by winning the first medal at any Rugby World Cup as they claimed bronze with a 19-14 victory over Australia thanks to tries from Sean Cribbin, Harry Mcnulty And Terry Kennedy.
France followed up their silver medal in San Francisco four years ago by securing bronze in Cape Town with a comprehensive five-try win against the USA. A pair of tries from Lili Dezou, and scores by Joanna Grisez, Ian Jason and Alycia Chrystiaens. Whilst the Fijiana dominated Canada in a 52 - 0 win to take 5th place.
Australia women’s co-captain Charlotte Caslick said: “It’s a pretty special feat that this group of young girls has done. It was something we’ve been brave enough to put out there and put everything on the line to come away with. It’s incredible. I’m so proud of the girls - it’s been an honour to lead them this year and to watch the growth they’ve had as a group and as a team on and off the field. It’s really special for me to be a part of - at the moment I’m just really proud - proud of our coaching staff, proud of the girls, proud of (co-captain) Demi and I, and getting them to have this bond that is becoming a real force on the world stage."
Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai said: “I am really proud of the boys, not just the boys but the team as a whole – the management, the coaches – for how we have worked these past weeks. We have so much, so much respect for New Zealand – the coaches, the players and the captain. We knew that they would fight back because they are a champion. We just worked hard and it happened. Thank you very much to the people of Fiji, we are so blessed we have so many supporters around the world."
Hosts and top seeds South Africa were disappointed to place seventh in the men’s competition but finished on a high by beating Samoa 35-5 to cheer the home supporters and end coach Neil Powell’s long and highly successful reign as head coach with a positive result.
Australia’s Faith Nathan had a world cup to remember, finishing as top try scorer with 9 tries and top point scorer with 45 points
The men’s top try scorer was Chile’s Steve Onosai with 7 tries, while Canada’s Brock Webster was the tournament top points scorer, with 35 points to his name.
As the final curtain is drawn on an outstanding and record breaking Rugby World Cup Sevens, with 40 competing teams from all six World Rugby nations playing in front of more than 105,000 fans across three days of scintillating rugby sevens, the popularity of the short format of the sport continues to grow around the globe ahead of its third appearance at the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Cape Town has delivered a record breaking Rugby World Cup Sevens and the teams have delivered inspirational performances. From Madagascar to China, Uganda to Korea, Rugby World Cup Sevens has demonstrated the global nature of the sport and the tremendous opportunity that we are taking to accelerate the growth of the women’s game. Rugby sevens has a very bright future.”
Fans will not have to wait long for the next taste of international action as the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 begins with a men’s event in Hong Kong on 4-6 November, followed by combined men’s and women’s rounds in Dubai on 2-3 December and a return to Cape Town on 9-11 December.
The attention of the rugby world now turns to the women’s fifteens game with Rugby World Cup 2021, being played in 2022, which gets under way in New Zealand in less than a month’s time.