Australia has won the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021/2022 for the first time in history after an amazing day two of action in Los Angeles.
However it was Fiji and New Zealand that played in the final of the tournament where the All Blacks Sevens scored a final minute try to win the game 28-27.
The 2022 series started in November last year and after nine tournaments, it all came down to the bronze medal match at Dignity Health Sports Park in California, USA.
Going into that match Australia knew that if they could win it then they would have too many points for nearest rivals Fiji and South Africa.
The scenarios were: If Australia won bronze, they would be crowned champions; if Fiji won gold and Australia finished fourth, Fiji would be crowned champions; if Fiji won silver and Australia finished fourth, South Africa would be crowned champions.
Australia beat Samoa 21-7 to clinch third place and the overall title.
An emotional Australian head coach John Manenti said: “It is quite surreal to be honest.”
“It has been an amazing six months or so with the boys, we have had our ups and downs, but these kids have fought hard and they deserve this and it is something that they will remember forever.
“We are a bunch of misfits just having a crack, working hard for each other and the boys love each other which is a big thing.
“This season we wanted to be consistent from day one and we didn’t get there every tournament, but in general this overall victory is all about the consistency the boys have shown.”
Before this, Australia had finished second in the men’s series in 2000-01, but this time they made it to the top of the mountain and backed up their women’s series win to show that they are the country to beat now when it comes to sevens.
They are the fifth country ever to win the series after New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Samoa. In all the excitement, Fiji and New Zealand then played out a brilliant gold medal match.
Before it, New Zealand had reached a Cup final on USA soil on eight occasions, but only lifted the trophy twice – in 2004-05 in Los Angeles and 2007-08 in San Diego.
Their record in Cup finals now is 62 wins and 39 losses after a late Moses Leo try – converted by Kurt Baker – helped the injury-hit squad see them win the game 28-21.
HSBC Player of the Final Leo said: “We had to dig deep, but the boys showed character and we did it.”
In the final standings, Australia finished on 128 points, South Africa on 124, Fiji third on 122, Argentina fourth on 118 and Ireland fifth on 92.
Gold medal match
Fiji and New Zealand were tied at 21-21 going into the final 60 seconds of a pulsating Cup final, and it was going to take something special to separate them.
All Blacks Moses Leo came up with it. His try, converted by Kurt Baker, saw them record a 28-21 triumph.
The result was tough for Fiji to take because they certainly played their part, their tries coming from Kaminieli Rasaku, Waisea Nacuqu and Filipe Sauturaga.
New Zealand captain Sione Molia said: “It was such a tough match and we knew we had to be real clinical and we were.”
“We had a few guys nursing injuries, but we wanted to win for each other and our country.”
Australia bounces back from early Samoa try
Knowing a win in this one would secure them the Series, there were no doubt some nerves in the Australian squad before this game against Samoa.
That only intensified when Owen Niue scored a converted try for the opponents after three minutes.
Australia stayed calm though and tries from Corey Toole, Henry Paterson and Dietrich Roache – all converted by the latter – got them home 21-7.
After the game which gave his side ultimate glory, captain Nick Malouf said: “I am just so proud, I look back to the start of this season and we had six guys contracted, it has been quite some journey since then.
“Before this game we spoke about making three groups of people proud. The first was Australians, the second was the name on our backs our families and the third was the group of guys. I hope we did that.”