There have been ample highlights for the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens starting in Wellington in 2000 and concluding in Hamilton this year.
2003: All Black Sevens Breakthrough in Capital
Fiji, Australia, and South Africa were the first three winners of the Wellington Sevens where the party atmosphere was so electric it drew comparisons to Hong Kong.
After losing the final to Fiji in the inaugural event, New Zealand crashed out in the next two tournaments creating a restless appetite for success.
On the first day, New Zealand breezed through pool play whitewashing England 24-0. Fiji awaited in the semi-finals on the second day and tries to Sailosi Naiteqe (2), Raymond Rodan and Sireli Bobo had the Fijians up 22-19 when the siren sounded.
New Zealand won a penalty and attacked the left side of the Fijian defense which eventually cracked; Tafai Ioasa from Hawke’s Bay dived over in the corner to seal the victory.
In the final New Zealand met England and won an 11-try thriller 38-26. Local player Roy Kinikinilau, scored two tries to match his double from the semi-final. Ioasa, who coached the Hastings Boys’ High School First XV to the National Top Four title in 2019, bagged a hat-trick to cap a memorable tournament. The New Zealand team also featured 18-year-old Liam Messam who later became an All Black.
England would go on to win tournaments in Brisbane and Hong Kong. Former Kiwis international Henry Paul scored a try in the final as did Ugo Monye who later won 14 caps for England. Ben Gollings is the highest points scorer in World Sevens rugby history with 2,652 points.
2008: Vito Goes Lomu Mode
The Sunday Star Times reported after the 2008 Wellington Sevens:
“New Zealand sevens rugby – no, make that New Zealand rugby – has a new star after Wellington youngster Victor Vito produced a match-winning display reminiscent of Jonah Lomu to lead his side to a third straight IRB Sevens title in the capital.”
Vito scored two tries, including the match-winner in the final minute storming down the left wing, as New Zealand won a thrilling final 22-17 over Samoa.
“There’s nothing better than this,” said coach Sir Gordan Tietjens afterward. “To score off the last move of the game, that’s what practice is all about.”
Samoa had led throughout following a freakish try by Mikaele Pesamino and a 40-meter drop goal by Lolo Lui.
Vito fulfilled his considerable promise by earning 33 tests for the All Blacks and being a member of the 2011 and 2015 World Cup-winning squads. In 2016 he played his 100th and final game for the Hurricanes in their 20-3 Super Rugby final win over the Lions. He has flourished since with La Rochelle in France.
2016: The Last Win in Wellington
New Zealand and South Africa overcame England and Fiji respectively to win a place in the final and create a rematch of their first-day encounter which New Zealand won 19-14.
All Black Sonny Bill Williams dropped the ball from the kick-off, immediately gifting South Africa possession and they scored a converted try Philip Snyman. The Springboks Sevens continued their momentum and soon Rosko Specman scored from a five-metre scrum, and it was 14-0. Cheslin Kolbe, a 2019 World Cup winner, converted both tries.
Akira Ioane scored a try for New Zealand 30 seconds before half-time, which Kurt Baker converted, making the score 14-7 at halftime.
Seabelo Senatla was one of the most exciting talents to grace a sevens field and when he busted through early in the second half the All Blacks looked dead and buried at 21-7. However, Specman was sent to the sin bin following a professional foul and Rieko Ioane cut loose with two tries to reduce the gap to 21-19.
By now the All Blacks momentum was unstoppable, and despite being restored to a full complement, South Africa couldn’t prevent Joe Webber from dashing 20 meteres clear on the left wing to complete an improbable comeback. New Zealand won the Wellington Sevens eight times.
2020: Double Delight for New Zealand in Hamilton
For the first time in New Zealand, the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens shared the bill in an official tournament.
The Black Ferns Sevens extended their perfect record against Canada in Cup finals to 7-0 with a 24-7 victory to become the third team to win a World Series title on home soil.
Canada rocked the hosts early by scoring the first try through Brittany Benn in the fifth minute. Things got worse for the Black Ferns when Ruby Tui, the World Rugby Women's Sevens Player of the Year, was sent to the sin-bin for two minutes following a high tackle.
New Zealand held firm in her absence and deep into first-half extra time scored a try when Michaela Blyde went over from close range supporting a Stacey Fluhler break.
Fluhler won the restart, and the ball was quickly worked along the line to Blyde, who stepped her way through the Canadian defence for her eighth of the tournament. Niall Williams' try with little more than two minutes to play pushed the Black Ferns Sevens out to 19-7 and all but secured the title.
However, there was still time for HSBC Player of the Final Fluhler to turn another restart take into New Zealand's fourth try of the title decider to draw level with Blyde as the top try-scorer in the tournament on nine.
“This is massive. To everyone who has supported us over the last couple of days, thank you very much. We love all of our fans here in New Zealand,” said captain Sarah Hirini.
“It was the heart and grit that got us over the line, we’ve been training for this for so long to be playing in New Zealand. Canada is amazing but the way that the girls fought to get the ball back in – obviously we’ve got some speedsters to score us some tries as well.”
South Africa and Fiji (twice) had won the first three men’s Hamilton titles but in 2020 both countries missed the semi-finals leaving the door ajar for New Zealand. In pool play the All Blacks Sevens were imperious defeating USA (26-5), Scotland (38-12) and Wales (47-0).
In the semi-final, Australia was edged 17-14 leaving a showdown with France in the decider. The All Blacks Sevens were never seriously challenged with captain Scott Curry leading the charge with a hat-trick. Hamilton Boys’ High School product Regan Ware scored twice as well in a commanding 27-5 triumph.
Grab your tickets for the 2023 Hamilton Sevens HERE and visit www.nzsevens.co.nz to keep up with the latest news on the tournament.