Text, Picture and Video: World Rugby
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was decided on the final day of the series as Fiji beat the USA in the Cup semi-finals to secure a fourth world series title.
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.
The freshly crowned series winners kept their foot firmly on the gas as the HSBC Player of the Final Bolaca accumulated 18 of their 28 first-half points. With a 28-7 lead, they plumped their cushion further before New Zealand's response arrived. Regan Ware crossed twice for the All Blacks Sevens and Dylan Collier added another try to produce the final 35-24 scoreline.
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.
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.