HSBC SVNS 2024: Seven things we learned in Vancouver

Following three enthralling days of rugby sevens, we recap the best of the action from BC Place.

HSBC SVNS fever swept through Vancouver last weekend as the fans who filled BC Place were treated to three exhilarating days of rugby sevens action.

In the men’s tournament, Argentina wrapped up a third successive title as Antoine Dupont helped to inspire France to a first medal of the season.

Les Bleues Sevens also appeared on the podium, but they were beaten to the women’s title by a resurgent Black Ferns Sevens after hosts Canada had claimed bronze.

And with the series moving south to Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles this Friday, we recap the best of the action from HSBC SVNS Vancouver.

Black Ferns Sevens back to their best

By their own high standards SVNS 2024 has been a disappointing one for the seven-time series champions.

Heading into Vancouver, New Zealand had made only one Cup final – at the opening tournament in Dubai – and were without a title. The only previous time they had failed to win any of their opening three tournaments was in 2015-16 when they went the whole campaign without a gold medal.

Any notion that the Black Ferns Sevens are a fading force was soon put to bed at BC Place as they began their title defence with three straight victories, ending the pool stage as the top try-scorers and meanest defence with a whopping points difference of +101.

That form carried into the knockout stages where Spain and Canada were overcome before France were beaten 35-19 in the Cup final.

The efforts of three experienced players, Shiray Kaka – who finished top of the Impact table – Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman-Wickliffe were key but it was fitting too that a member of the next generation, Jorja Miller, was among the try scorers in the showpiece match.

Osadczuk stars in Argentina run

Los Pumas Sevens are the in-form team in SVNS, and their gold rush continued in Vancouver as Santiago Gómez Cora’s men’s series leaders won their third successive title.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of their current run, though, has been the fact that it has been propelled by key contributions from a wide range of players.

In the Vancouver knockout stages, it was the turn of Matías Osadczuk to step up when his team needed him most. It was his try that ultimately decided the Cup quarter-final against Samoa before he crossed twice – later spending time in the sin bin – as Argentina overcame USA to reach the final.

Osadczuk saved the best until last on Sunday, scoring a three-minute second-half hat-trick of tries, including the score that gave Argentina the lead for the first time, as Los Pumas Sevens recovered from going 12-0 down to beat New Zealand 36-12.

The versatile Olympian also finished the weekend sixth in the Impact table, his 14 tackles and 15 carries showcasing his tireless commitment to the Argentine cause.

Dupont dazzles BC Place

The BC Place stadium announcer said it all as Antoine Dupont trotted out to make his HSBC SVNS bow against USA on Friday, describing the man wearing the blue number 25 jersey as “one of the very best to do it”.

Dupont lived up to that lofty billing over the next 48 hours, running through his full repertoire of skills and then some as he helped his team-mates to a first podium finish of the season.

Fans who had turned up to watch the World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year 2021 begin his quest to become an Olympian saw him notch his first SVNS try in his first start – France’s final pool match against Australia – and he otherwise revelled in his role as a super sub.

That score was followed by the match-winning dart down the blindside in the Cup quarter-final against Ireland, while it was his defensive prowess that set up his side’s third try in their fruitless comeback against the All Blacks Sevens on Sunday.

Dupont started the bronze final against USA and it was his no-look scoring pass to Theo Forner that started the France fightback as Les Bleus Sevens recovered from going 12-0 down to win 42-12. The identity of the sixth French try-scorer? Number 25, of course!

Scurfield ignites Canada’s podium charge

Many of those who flocked to BC Place may have done so to watch Dupont, but they would surely have left in admiration of one of the home stars on display.

Krissy Scurfield finished the tournament with four tries – including what turned out to be the match-winning score against Canada’s arch rivals USA in the women’s Cup quarter-finals – but her contribution went far beyond that statistic.

Canada’s bronze medal, giving the team a first appearance on the podium in four years, owed much to Scurfield’s all-round brilliance. Aside from the tries, there were 13 tackles, 22 carries and four breaks that left her third on the Impact table.

But it will be the tries she scored, especially against New Zealand and Australia, that will live longest in the collective memory. In the bronze final, she handed off Maddison Levi and then outpaced the Australian flyer from 50 metres out to score one of the tries of the tournament.

Webber at heart of All Blacks Sevens renaissance

With three minutes of the men’s final played at BC Place it looked as though New Zealand might be set for a title double.

Tries from Joe Webber and Brady Rush had helped put the All Blacks Sevens 12-0 up in the showpiece match, but those blows merely woke up the Argentine machine and within 15 minutes it was Los Pumas Sevens who were celebrating again.

Regardless of the result, though, Vancouver was a welcome return to form for Tomasi Cama’s defending series champions, who had failed to reach the Cup quarter-finals in Perth and have not won a tournament since Toulouse last May.

At the heart of their impressive performance at BC Place was a man celebrating a special milestone. One of several players to be appearing in their 50th series tournament, Webber contributed 14 tackles, eight offloads and 19 carries to finish top of the men’s Impact table.

Las Leonas end long wait

Spain went into their opening match of the women’s tournament against Great Britain in need of a result to boost confidence as they attempt to lift themselves out of relegation trouble.

Given they had not won a pool match on the series since Cape Town in December 2022, and they were playing a team that had claimed the bronze medal last time out, it looked a tall order.

Yet tries from Anne Fernández de Corres, Paula Requena and Juana Stella powered them to an impressive 19-12 victory on Friday.

Pool C rivals France and Canada would prove too strong but they edged Perth champions Ireland to a place in the Cup quarter-finals and – having run into the Black Ferns Sevens juggernaut on Saturday – finished the tournament on a high by beating Brazil in the seventh-place play-off.

It means that Spain have climbed from 12th to 10th in the standings and within 14 points of safety with three tournaments left to play before the Grand Final in Madrid.

SVNS too close to call

Following the weekend’s events in Vancouver we are now halfway through the inaugural season of the revamped HSBC SVNS.

And while Argentina’s men and Australia’s women have undoubtedly set the pace in their respective races to top the podium come Madrid, this is proving to be one of the most competitive seasons yet.

In the women’s tournament, both the title winners and bronze medallists from the previous round in Perth – Ireland and Great Britain – failed to qualify for the Cup quarter-finals, which featured two teams from the bottom four in Brazil and Spain.

It was a similar story in the men’s tournament as Perth silver medallists, Australia finished 10th and Great Britain and Samoa did their survival hopes no harm by reaching the quarter-finals.

With only a five-day turnaround before the fun starts all over again in Los Angeles, SVNS fans should strap in for another thrilling weekend of rugby sevens.