- O’Donnell completes 27 carries, 18 tackles, 3 offloads and 10 line breaks
- Khamidova with 14 carries, 25 tackles, 8 offloads and 5 line breaks
While calling the Men’s Series in Sydney, the guys in the broadcast booth couldn’t say enough about Ben O’Donnell: “What about the big step on that occasion!” “He’s a busy player.” “O’Donnell again, pops it up!” “Ben O’Donnell has made a revelation.”
That’s because the 22-year-old Rugby Sevens rookie seemed to be in the middle of the action every time he took the pitch at the 2018 HSBC Sydney Sevens this past weekend.
The sevens series commentators, including former English captain Rob Vickerman, loved every minute of it.
“Ben O’Donnell typified the performance of this young, talented Australian squad. They were relentless in their attack and committed in defense," he said.
That performance earned O’Donnell the title DHL Impact Player Sydney 2018.
Ben O’Donnell typified the performance of this young, talented Australian squad.Rob Vickerman
To say this rising star was in fine form at Allianz Stadium might just be an understatement. The youngster, who calls Sydney home, put up a set of stats normally reserved for veterans. O’Donnell first tried his hand at sevens a mere 12 months before making his debut on the World Rugby Sevens stage in Dubai this past November.
The agile, explosive back was consistently brilliant across all three days, leading the DHL Performance Tracker on day two and three before finishing with an incredible total of 58 points. That consistency of performance is what the DHL Impact Player award is all about.
What set O’Donnell apart – and made his hometown fans go wild – was his more-than-obvious hunger to be right in the middle of the action. While carrying a colossal 27 times, this Aussie workhorse made an impressive 18 tackles. It seemed wherever the ball was, the rookie was there.
Wherever the ball was, the rookie was there.
His opponents quickly noticed, too, and at times tried to avoid one-on-one confrontations, though having two on him wasn’t always enough. His Sydney show reminded everyone of his ability to come off two feet and his strong fend. The 10 line breaks he managed – second in Sydney only to world-class pacer Perry Baker – will ensure he’s dreaded by every defense as the series continues. Add to that three game-changing offloads, and we have one perfect Impact Player package.
Men’s Series leaders
After topping the DHL Performance Tracker in Cape Town with a whopping 60 points and finishing 4th in Sydney, Fiji’s Amenomi Nasilasila is now at the top of the overall IPA standings, with 130 points. He shares the lead with South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla, who matched Samoa’s Almanda Motuga in the series opener in Dubai and made the top ten in both Cape Town and Sydney.
Ben O’Donnell jumps to third place on the leaderboard with 123 points, followed closely by Canada’s Harry Jones (121) and Justin Douglas (117).
The Men’s Sevens Series now makes the short hop over the Tasmanian Sea for the next showdown on February 3-4 in Hamilton. All three Impact Players – Senatla, Nasilasila, and O’Donnell will be there, as will the three of the four other players currently topping the leaderboard, save Australia’s captain, Lewis Holland, who is out with a cork.
Who will be in the lead after the dust settles on Sunday is anybody’s guess.
Women’s Impact Player
While the home crowd watched the Australian Women’s side run circles around their opponents – without conceding a single try, a first in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Russian rugby sevens fans had their eyes fixed fully on their beloved Beizat Khamidova. That’s because the veteran forward put in an incredible shift over the weekend.
Khamidova has been a force to be reckoned with for some time.
Though her team went on to lose the bronze final against Canada, Khamidova’s performance shined throughout the tournament. In the end, she walked off the pitch with 25 tackles, 14 carries, 8 offloads, and 5 line breaks – 52 total points that earned her the DHL Impact Player Award in Sydney.
Khamidova, who has helped take Russian women’s rugby to the top in Europe, has been a force to be reckoned with for some time. And her high tackle and carry numbers prove once again that this is true both in attack and in defense. She was even named to the HSBC Sydney Sevens Women’s Dream Team.
Khamidova’s teammate Alena Mikhaltsova stands atop the overall Impact Player leaderboard with 104 points, just five ahead of Japan’s Chiharu Nakamura.
The next women’s tournament is March 10-11 in Vancouver, Canada.