The impressive Estadio Olímpico de la Cartuja welcomed the HSBC World Sevens Series to Seville, Spain for the first time and the action on show did not disappoint.
Kicking off in brilliant sunshine, the fourth round of the 2022 Series supplied plenty of moments to remember and some thrilling finishes.
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USA, the women’s title winners in Malaga last weekend, couldn’t have done any more in their attempts to go back-to-back with wins over world series debutants Portugal and England.
Russia, Ireland, France and Australia are the other unbeaten sides heading into Saturday’s play.
“The win means a lot to us, we really had to grind for it and it just shows that we can work really hard and have each other’s backs when things aren’t going perfectly,” said USA women’s captain Lauren Doyle, a try-scorer in the 24-10 win over England that sets Emilie Bydwell’s side up nicely for day two.
In the men’s competition, South Africa had to sit and watch with a bye in their group as main HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series rivals Argentina, Australia, USA and France all kicked off with wins, some more comfortable than others with USA needing 90 seconds of overtime to break Spanish hearts.
The opening game in Pool A was a classic as hosts Spain refused to bow down to Dubai finalists USA, much to the delight of the enthusiastic home crowd.
Tobias Sainz-Trapaga scored his try of the game to put Spain five points ahead with only seconds remaining, but USA managed to keep the ball from the restart and workspace for Carlin Isles to score the match-equalising try.
With Isles dotting down behind the posts, Stephen Tomasin made no mistake with the most straightforward of conversions to hand USA a two-point, 28-26 win.
The action continues in Seville on Saturday as the pool stages conclude in both the men’s and women’s tournaments before the quarter-finals take place.
Day two will get underway at 08:45 local time (GMT +1) when Canada men take on Kenya in Pool D.
South Africa make their belated entry to the tournament, against Spain at 10:57, after being given a bye on the opening day due to Samoa’s withdrawal.
One of the most fascinating encounters in the men’s draw is the final game in Pool C between England and France, the sevens version of ‘Le Crunch’ kicking off at 15:19 local time.
For London-raised Aaron Grandidier, the match will be particularly poignant as he was in England’s system until he opted to wear the colours of his French-born mother.
Grandidier was delighted with the start that France made to the Seville tournament. “It was great fun, we are so happy to be out here and we are really looking forward to cracking on this weekend and, hopefully, getting revenge for last week’s loss against England,” he said.
After seven straight men’s matches, attention will then turn to the women’s competition and the completion of the pool stages.
Poland and Brazil get proceedings underway for the women at 11:51 before unbeaten Russia and Ireland battle it out for supremacy at the top of Pool B.
The rest of the pool schedule features a North American derby between USA and Canada, where the Women’s Sevens Eagles will look to set a new record winning run of 10 matches, while Australia against France, kick-off 13:41, should be a great encounter given the form of the two sides.
The women’s Cup quarter-finals begin at 17:14 and the men’s just under two hours later, at 19:07.