USA's women put past heartbreak behind them to claim the gold medal at the Pan American Games, while Argentina's men successfully defended their title after a brilliant weekend of rugby at the La Pintana Stadium in the suburbs of Santiago, Chile.
USA Women's Eagles Sevens beat Canada 19-12 in their final, the only time they conceded any points throughout the tournament, while Los Pumas Sevens were the dominant team in the men's event, defeating Chile 24-5 in the final, as they secured back-to-back gold medals after their success in Lima four years ago.
It was the USA Women's Eagles Sevens first gold medal at the event after two heart-breaking losses in the 2015 and 2019 Pan American Games and the USA's first rugby gold medal at a global multi-sport event since the men's team became Olympic champions in 15s rugby in 1924.
Tapper and Sullivan shine for USA
Naya Tapper was a key player for USA, opening with a brace in a 44-0 win against Jamaica, followed by three more tries in the group stages and the all-important score in the final for an overall tally of six for the tournament.
Tapper was matched try-for-try by team-mate Sammy Sullivan, who went one better against Jamaica by grabbing a hat-trick before scoring three more over the weekend as USA backed up their third-place finish in the women's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023.
“(We must) take a step back and understand what this moment means for our programme and our team. To win the first multi-sport games gold medal for Team USA is something we set to achieve at the beginning of pre-season. We are really happy, but also ready for what the rest of the year has in store for us," said head coach Emilie Bydwell.
While Canada had to settle for silver despite two tries in the final from Piper Logan, Brazil claimed the bronze medal after a 45-0 win against Colombia.
"It wasn’t the outcome that we desired, but I thought that the performance throughout the weekend was excellent,” said Canada head coach Jack Hanratty.
"“We had a lot of control and possession throughout the entire game, but a score [against] in the last play of the second half and last play of the first half, that was 12 points of the 19 that we conceded.
"We’re disappointed, but we’re a group that’s building for Paris and with that we want to be in these gold medal games. It’s exactly the kind of preparation that we want, just not the outcome. [Overall] really happy with the group and excited to see where we can go next.”
Fifth place belonged to Paraguay after they beat Mexico, while Chile came seventh ahead of Jamaica.
Argentina worthy champions
Los Pumas Sevens won their second consecutive Pan American Games gold medal in Santiago after a solid performance from Santiago Gómez Cora’s team, who will look to use this as a springboard to a successful campaign at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Argentina were clinical in attack and strong defensively as they saw off Jamaica, Chile and Uruguay in the group stages before beating for Canada 21-7 in the semi-final and then Chile 24-5 in the final.
“This means many things, on the one hand it confirms the moment this group is in, how close we are,” said veteran Gastón Revol, in his 15th season in the team. “And, of course, this is the kick off for what will be a huge year for us.”
With his daughter Francina on his shoulders, Revol added: “This is her first tournament and from the emotional aspect it is one of the best things I have lived, being able to represent my country with my daughter and family in the stands.”
Los Condores Sevens, who had four players from their Rugby World Cup 2023 squad in their ranks, opened the competition with a crucial win against regional neighbours Uruguay 24-7. A 28-12 defeat to Argentina was then followed by a 27-12 win against Jamaica, which secured their place in the semi-finals.
Cristóbal Game secured a thrilling 15-12 win over USA in stoppage time. A player short and leading by two points, USA aimlessly kicked away possession a second from full-time and after a number of phases, Game touched down and the 4,000-strong home contingent in the crowd erupted.
Having already lost to Argentina once in the group stages, winning gold was always going to be a difficult proposition and so it proved.
Former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year and a nominee for this year's accolade, Marcos Moneta only scored once in Santiago – against Canada in the semi-final – but assisted in setting up countless others with his dangerous runs allowing others to shine.
Alejo Lavayén added a hat-trick in the final to two earlier tries in a tremendous display that brought him 19 points.
While it wasn't to be for Chile, it closed a great year for the country's High Performance programme, with Los Cóndores playing in their first-ever Rugby World Cup.
Canada beat Team USA 19-17 to claim the silver medal, while Uruguay edged Brazil 15-14 in another thriller to finish fifth. Jamaica managed a conversion more than Mexico to beat them 26-24 and avoid eighth place.
Photo: Frankie Deges / SAR