San Francisco hosted the biggest rugby competition staged in the United States, with AT&T Park the venue for the Rugby World Cup Sevens over the weekend, and fans saw history in the making when New Zealand became the first nation to defend successfully both men's and women's titles at the one tournament.
The New Zealand men's team, the All Blacks Sevens, featuring veteran playmaker Kurth Baker (pictured above, palming off France's Manoel All Igna during the Championship quarterfinals) proved too good for England in the Gold Medal game. Baker scored 22 points in four matches en route to the title, second only to Joe Ravouvou on the Kiwis' roster.
Much as the tournament at the very end was about New Zealand, and their completion of a second successive double-double, after Moscow in 2013, the crowd was entertained royally by the minnows as well as the giants throughout the three days of competition by the bay. The photo above shows Chihito Matsui of Japan doing everything possible to evade a tackle by Valentin Grille of Uruguay during their men's Pre-Round of 16 game. Japan won 33-7 but they would lose 35-10 in the next round. Uruguay would eventually place 20th in the men's competition, with Japan 15th.
Australia kicked off the women's tournament as firm favourites even though New Zealand were the defending champions. The Aussies, the Olympic champions from Rio de Janeiro in 2016, had regained their mojo in 2018 to claim the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series crown, after a disappointing 2017, and they looked good in progressing to the semifinals. They were stunned at that stage by France, however, losing 19-12, having led 12-0 at halftime, but they regained composure to defeat the United States 24-14 in the Bronze Final to ensure they returned home with a medal. Ellia Green of Australia is pictured above pulling down Lauren Doyle of the United States in the Bronze Final. Green was equally effective on attack, scoring two tries in the game to take her tally for the tournament to five.
At the other end of the scale in the women's game, Mexico, making their first appearance at a Rugby World Cup Sevens, lost all four of their matches, outscored 182 points to 0. In the picture above, Karmin Macedo of Mexico tackles Zintle Mpupha of South Africa (above) in one of the playoffs to decide the 13-16 placings. South Africa won 34-0 before losing to Brazil in the playoff for 13th and 14th place. Mexico subsequently lost to Papua New Guinea in the playoff to decide 15th and 16th place in the 16-team competition.
France had stunned Australia in the men's Round of 16 fixtures, much as their fellow countrywomen would do subsequently in the women's semifinals, but they fell short against the Aussies' trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand, in the men's Championship quarterfinals. Still, in terms of the scoreboard, the match (above) was the All Blacks Sevens' greatest challenge as they won only 17-12. In no other match would New Zealand's men score fewer than 22 points.
Scotland produced one of the most amazing performances of the men's tournaments in defeating Kenya in the Round of 16. The Scot's won 31-26, but only after Kenya had built a seemingly unassailable 26-0. Harvey Elms got the Scots on the board with what seemed like a consolation try in the 11th minute; little did we know! Scotland were unable to replicate the heroics in the quarterfinals, losing to South Africa, and they would finish the tournament ranked seventh. In this picture above, Samuel Oliech of Kenya is shown tackling Elms.
Day two saw disappointment not only for Scotland in the men's Championship quarterfinals. The hosts would lose to England at the same stage of the men's competition, in dramatic fashion in sudden-death overtime, while the women went down to eventual champions New Zealand in the semifinals. Those results did nothing to quell the support of the home fans (above), however. The women finished the tournament ranked fourth, the men sixth.
Above, Ryan Carlyle of the United States is pictured losing the the ball on the tryline as she is tackled by Cassandra Staples of Australia in the Bronze Final.
In finishing sixth in the men's tournament, The United States Eagles lost their final match to Argentina, whose player Gaston Revol is seen above being tackled by Josua Tuisova of Fiji in the Championship quarterfinals. Revol was Argentina's leading points scorer at the tournament, with 21.
Argentina pretty much lost all the collisions against Fiji. Above, Conrado Roura loses out to Semi Kunatani.
Fiji, the Olympic champions, are a Sevens rugby powerhouse and they are always among the fans' favourites for their freestyle play. Above, Alasio Sovita Naduva celebrates with teammates Semi Kunatani and Jerry Tuwei in front of those fans after scoring a try against Argentina during Championship quarterfinals.
Back in the women's competition on day two, Noriko Taniguchi of Japan is shown (above) breaking a tackle of Brazil's Amanda Araujo.
The Ireland men's team had a tournament to celebrate, the relative newcomers to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens World Series defeating Australia 24-14 in the second-tier Challenge final. They lost just one match all tournament, to South Africa in the men's Championship quarterfinals. Above, Jimmy O'Brien (No. 9) is congratulated by Terry Kennedy after scoring against Chile in their first match of the tournament. They subsequently lost to South Africa before defeating Kenya and Wales en route to the Challenge final.
We told you earlier that Australia's Ellia Green was effective on attack; here's the proof (above), with the speedster scoring a diving try against the United States in the women's Bronze Final
One match after Australia had defeated the United States in the women's Bronze Final, and New Zealand had been crowned World Cup winners again. Above the New Zealand Black Ferns Sevens players perform a celebratory Haka after defeating France in the Championship final.
South Africa's men's team, the Springboks Sevens or Blitzboks, are known for a physical style of rugby but England matched them for physicality in the Championship semifinals. Harry Glover of England (above, right) and Werner Kok are pictured here clashing in that match, which England won 29-7. England would lose to New Zealand in the Championship final, while South Africa would defeat Fiji in the Bronze Final.
England's Tom Mitchell was upended in the men's Championship final against New Zealand.
Andrew Knewstubb of New Zealand blows past William Muir of England in the men's Championship final.