Paris Sevens: Fiji win season with a final title
This article will be updated and later become the day two wrap.
Fiji clinched their fourth World Series Sevens title and won the Paris Sevens 2019 in the French capital on Sunday.
It took until the last day of the season – and almost hte final match – for the season’s champion to be decided.
Gareth Baber’s outfit, who went into this last stop of the series two points ahead of the USA, marched on to cap their series-clinching day with the tournament victory after beating New Zealand 35-24 in the Cup final.
After losing their last two Cup finals on French soil, against France in 2005 and Samoa in 2016, Fiji scored their first points in this year’s final after just 30 seconds. Napolioni Bolaca’s try was converted and then quickly added to by Meli Derenalagi.
“Last year we came here and we were further in front but we did not have the wherewithal to finish it off. That was quite painful,” said head coach Baber, who received the UL Mark of Excellence after the Cup final for the season’s work.
“I thought that the back end of the season, carrying on from Hong Kong with Singapore, London last week and to round it off as we did, is pretty special. It’s all credit to everybody back home in Fiji, everybody who has supported us and kept patient. But, most of all to the staff and the quality outfit that we have playing for us.”
The USA had never finished higher than fifth in the world series standings but their standout season, which included seven podium finishes and reaching every Cup semi-final, saw them secure second position in the final standings and fourth place in Paris. Mike Friday’s side were beaten 24-7 in the bronze final by a powerful performance from South Africa. Despite the loss of both the bronze medal and the world series title, the head coach was full of praise of his team’s work and fortitude.
“I’m immensely proud of the character and where we’ve come as a group,” said Friday. “To break through that glass ceiling of the top four and push the world series right to the penultimate game is a credit to the way that the boys have approached and delivered this season. But there’s still some learnings for us which is a good thing, it means that there’s growth. If there is growth there is potential and we can kick on and hopefully learn from these mistakes to make us better for next year.”
Beaten Cup finalists at the Stade Jean-Bouin, New Zealand finished third in the overall standings with Andrew Knewstubb ending the 10 rounds as the top points-scorer on the world series.
In all, the final day of action at the Stade Jean-Bouin was a fitting finale to an incredible season and one that saw Fiji, New Zealand, the USA and South Africa all qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Japan, the side that finished 15th in the world series standings and lost their place as a core team for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020, will also be at the Olympics as host nation.
BlitzBoks finish third in Paris
The Springbok Sevens team secured third place at the Paris Sevens after a convincing 40-7 win over Samoa in their Cup quarter-final on Sunday, but they then came unstuck in their semi-final against New Zealand before claiming bronze against the USA.
The Blitzboks scored four tries in their final match of the season against the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series runners-up, and won the bronze medal match by 24-7. It means the Neil Powell and his team finish the 2018/19 series with a good victory and five wins from their six matches in the French capital this weekend.
The USA were first on the score sheet when Perry Baker crossed for a converted try, but the Blitzboks hit back with tries by Muller du Plessis (2), Ryan Oosthuizen and Philip Snyman. Dewald Human converted two of the four tries.
The effort against New Zealand was a disappointing one and the Blitzboks could not get going against the men in black. They had early opportunities, but did not convert, while New Zealand took every opportunity to punish a somewhat disorganised South African defence. Three tries in the opening seven minutes gave them a 21-0 lead at the break.
The second half started on a more positive note with Cecil Afrika scoring a try, converted by Dewald Human to close the gap to 21-7.
Two more New Zealand tries killed off any chances of a successful defence of their HSBC Paris Sevens crown for the Blitzboks though.
Earlier on Sunday, against Samoa, the Blitzboks scored six tries, with four of those coming in a first half blitz that saw them leading 26-0 at the break.
The Blitzboks started very strong against Samoa. Justin Geduld was first over the line, before Branco du Preez followed a minute later as South Africa dominated the kick-offs due to stellar work by Impi Visser.
Werner Kok scored after the Blitzboks attacked to the left and then came back to where Kok lurked in the wing. Branco du Preez converted three of the tries to have South Africa in command at the break.
Muller du Plessis extended that lead with a strong run early in the second half, beating a couple of defenders.
The last try for South Africa came from Philip Snyman, who used good strength to bulldoze his way over the line.
Snyman came into the squad as replacement for Sako Makata, who did not start the day due to an ankle injury.
Dewald Human’s conversion pushed the score out to 40-0, but credit to Samoa, who kept plugging away, with Alamanda Motuga getting a late score
Paris Sevens 2019: Quarterfinal results
Fiji 24-5 France
USA 26-14 Kenya
New Zealand 21-12 Argentina
South Africa 40-7 Samoa
Fiji 33-14 USA
New Zealand 33-7 South Africa
Additional reporting by SA Rugby and World Rugby.