28 Jan 2019

Hamilton Sevens a success

10:53 am on 28 January 2019

Opinion - They came, they drank, they behaved themselves.

Everything the organisers could have hoped for - aside from the All Blacks Sevens not winning a Cup title - came to fruition over the weekend in Hamilton, showing that second-year syndrome didn't apply to a tournament that got bigger and better in 2019.

no caption

Members of the Fiji Team celebrate their win over USA in the finals during the Day 2 of the Sevens World Series 2019. Photo: Photosport

However, the key ingredient to creating a sporting atmosphere in New Zealand was again on maximum display and amplification whenever a certain team took that field.

They weren't wearing black, rather the white of Fiji is what got an enormous percentage of the crowd on its feet. It's pretty simple: if you want noise, colour and a positive environment to bring families to, make sure you involve a team from the Pacific Islands.

Just like Tonga have been bathing everything their rugby league team touches in red, local Fiji fans and those who had traveled from the islands turned out in force at Waikato Stadium. Their blue flags blotted out even the most garish costumes in the crowd whenever their team would score, win, or lift the little girl who brought them out the match ball.

They weren't disappointed.

Their team massacred all their opposition, from start to finish they were never troubled across the entire weekend. In fact, the one good thing about the All Blacks Sevens going down in their semi final against the United States is that they were spared an inevitable hiding in the final. The Americans barely even made it out of their half in the 38-0 drubbing Fijian defence acting like the wall the current US president wants so badly.

The addition of the Black Ferns to the tournament was a major win, with the side predictably making the final of their four-team tournament.

The players were a breath of fresh air for the media, too, clearly stoked to be playing at home for the first time ever. They were rewarded with a packed house for their last game, in which they gave the same sort of dominant display the Fijians dished out.

The 31-0 win over France is nothing to be sniffed at either - the French were World Cup finalists last year.

Off the park, Waikato Stadium proved a handy place to have a tournament that is half sport and half entertainment.

The large areas out the back of the stands provided ample room for teams to warm up and for fans to head outside and party without disturbing the view of those that wanted to watch the footy. This is where it crucially has an advantage over the Wellington version (well, when people actually showed up to the Wellington version). The stadium can be easily split in half to segregate the older, more alcohol affected fans with the children there to see some role models on the field.

That's why having the Black Ferns Sevens involved was so important over the weekend. They had 25,000 pairs of eyes on them during the final, and many more watching on TV. Every single one of the players we talked to stressed the importance of inspiring the next generation of girls to pick up the game and follow in their footsteps.

The ball is now in World Rugby's court over whether they will make Hamilton a fully integrated tournament.

Logistically, it will take some work - expanding it to three days and accommodating another dozen teams - but this is the way forward for an event that's been given new life in a new home.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.