A single point was all that separated Sam Cross from Wales and England’s Dan Norton at the top of the final ranking for the DHL Impact Player Award of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. As the final tournament of the series unfolded, the two men traded the overall lead all weekend long.
Norton tallied the most points at the London event itself, but in the end Cross emerged victorious after an excellent display of skill from the two men over the course of the series.
For Cross, the difference came down his excellent consistency in offloads all season. He finished with 63, nearly 40 more than Norton and 23 ahead of Perry Baker, who had the second-most offloads over the course of the series. Nearly a third of Cross’s carries were offloads.
“It comes down to my Fijian heritage,” Cross said of his talent in that regard. “It’s been passed down through generations.”
Cross also led all players in total carries with 166, but Norton was just four shy in that column.
The head coach of the Wales team, Gareth Williams, said he’s “chuffed to bits” that Cross emerged as the DHL Impact Player for the Series.
“He can unlock defenses with that offload,” Williams said of Cross. “He spots space really well and gets his hands free. It’s a good opportunity to play off him.”
In April, Cross won the DHL Impact Player Award at the Singapore Sevens tournament, setting the record for points awarded at a single tournament in the process. He picked up 17 of his 63 season offloads in that tournament alone.
Blitzboks win the series
By the time the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series got to London, crowning the series champion was a bit of a formality: South Africa’s Blitzboks had secured the title the previous week in Paris. That meant the pressure was off in London, but it gave the South African team plenty of time to soak in their accomplishment after four straight years at the series runners-up.
“At the beginning of the series, we had a meeting,” said coach Neil Powell. “We were focused and spoke about our desire to win the series. No more runner-up spots for us. From that moment, the players went out and knew what they had to do, and have delivered the series win.”
Powell said the team culture involved “one hundred percent effort one hundred percent of the time” – an attitude that really set in with win in Wellington, the coach added.
There, the Blitzbok’s Seabelo Senatla won the DHL Impact Player Award as South Africa beat Fiji in the second tournament of the season.
South Africa area already looking ahead to next season, where they’ll return as defending champions. World Rugby has announced the dates for the 10 rounds of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2017-18, which kicks off in Dubai on December 1-2 and features a break for Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia in mid-April.
After the nail-biting finish to the DHL Impact Player Award competition and South Africa’s determined triumph after four years of falling short of the title, we can’t wait to see what next year’s Rugby Sevens Series has in store!