Back-to-back weekends on the 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series delivered double the thrill to rugby fans around the world. The race to grab DHL IPA honors was also an action-packed nail biter, with a number of stars vying for the top spot on the DHL Performance Tracker and no fewer than five reaching it over the two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town.
A tie in Dubai
While New Zealand’s women’s and men’s teams dominated Dubai, we watched the one of Australia’s best women beat out a strong field and two of her countrymen race to a photo finish alongside USA’s speedster to win the DHL Impact Player Awards.
Evania Pelite chalked up 53 points to edge New Zealand’s Sarah Goss by one point and Ireland’s Eve Higgins by three. The player of the tournament at last year’s Dubai Sevens, Pelite put on a pulsating performance (30 carries, 3 off-loads, 5 line-breaks, and 15 tackles) that helped her team claim the bronze medal over USA’s Women’s Sevens Eagles.
The Men’s DHL Impact Award in Dubai was a tight race to the finish line that ended in a three-way tie between Perry Baker (USA), Maurice Longbottom (Australia), and Ben O’Donnell (Australia), all finishing with 44 points.
Despite a stellar 26 carriers for Perry “Speedstick” Baker, the Men’s Sevens Eagles were unable to overcome the All Blacks in a powerful and energy-sapping final. The same went for O’Donnell and Longbottom, who combined for a whopping 74 carries. Australia fell to England by the slenderest of margins: 15-14.
A Samoan paints the town
In Cape Town, the Pacific Islanders controlled the waters as Fiji capped a fantastic, unbeaten weekend to win gold and Somoa’s Alamanda Motuga put 47 points on the board to win the DHL Impact Player Award.
The star forward and DHL Impact Player at the 2017 Dubai Sevens led the rankings in carries (25) and line-breaks (6), helping his team reach the Challenge Trophy Final – a result that earned them 22 points and third place in the overall Series rankings.
“Absolutely outstanding effort.”Rob Vickerman, former England 7s captain and DHL ambassador
“An absolutely outstanding effort,” said Rob Vickerman, former England 7s captain and DHL Ambassador, just before Sir Gordon Tietjens presented Motuga with the DHL Impact Player Award prize – a watch from TAG Heuer.
🙌🏽 Great moment as Sir Gordon Tietjens presents @manusamoa's Alamanda Motuga with his @TAGHeuer watch, after becoming the @CapeTown7s DHL Impact Player! #DHLImpactPlayer#CapeTown7spic.twitter.com/JWIErBl3h2— DHL Rugby (@DHLRugby) December 9, 2018
To reach their first final since 2009 and secure their first victory in South Africa since 2005, Fiji won every match of the weekend. A pair of tries from Kalione Nasoko and Vilimoni Botitu helped Fiji beat USA 29-15 in the Final. Nosoko tied for fifth on the DHL Performance Tracker with 39 points, while teammate Jerry Tuwai tied for third with 41 points. With combined 37 carries and 21 tackles, the due showed that they were a force to be reckoned with both on offense and defense.
A southern hemisphere showing
After two rounds of the Men’s 2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the top four spots on the DHL Performance Tracker are occupied by southern hemisphere players.
New Zealand’s Siona Molia took second place in Cape Town but rocketed to the top of the series rankings with 83 points. After a respectable 35 points and ninth place in Cape Town to follow up the win in Dubai, Australia’s Longbottom is four points back at 79. Cape Town winner Matuga is right on his tail at 78, with Nasoko and Baker chasing at 76 and 75 points, respectively.
On the Women’s side, Russia’s Alena Mikhaltsova holds on to a commanding lead on the DHL Performance Tracker with 100 points after her crowd-pleasing 57-point performance in Glendale. But New Zealand’s Sarah Goss is chasing hard at 95 followed by Ireland’s Lucy Mulhall at 91. Aussie Charlotte Caslick and Kiwi Kelly Brazier (Danielle Waterman’s pick for most carries) aren’t too far behind at 84 and 81 points, respectively.
Next up: Hamilton
After a brief break for the holidays, the Men’s Series continues in Hamilton, New Zealand, January 26-27. The Women’s Series gets back underway a week later in Sydney, February 1-2.
DHL Impact Player Award
A rugby player produces moments of skill and flair that are critical to a team’s success on the pitch, in the same way that DHL uses care and commitment to service your shipments. The DHL Impact Player Award recognizes such moments using a statistical analysis of individual players performances measured against four key criteria: Off-loads, Carries, Line-breaks and Tackles. The scores are compiled and presented on the DHL Performance Tracker, where the total score for each player is a combination of each criteria.
A winner is announced at the end of each individual tournament and the Overall Series Winner is judged across all 10 legs for Men’s and all 5 for the Women’s.