Winners and Losers from Commonwealth Games Sevens Tournament

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2014

Winners and Losers from Commonwealth Games Sevens Tournament

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    South Africa became the first team other than New Zealand to win a Commonwealth Games Sevens gold medal on Sunday, overcoming the All Blacks 17-12 at Glasgow's Ibrox Stadium to cap off an exhilarating tournament.

    The defeat brings an end to New Zealand's 16-year grip on the competition. They had to settle for silver after Australia beat Samoa to claim bronze earlier on in the order.

    It's been yet another remarkable event in this year's Games, with nations both big and small drawing capacity crowds to the home of Rangers FC. Some took away great lessons from their experience, while others left a tad glummer following their campaigns.

    Read on for a breakdown of those who came out best and worst in the two-day extravaganza.

Losers: New Zealand's Winning Streak Comes to a Halt

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    Winning four Commonwealth gold medals is a momentous feat, but New Zealand's 100 percent winning record came to an end at the hands of South Africa on Sunday.

    The All Blacks showed a similar tenacity, mental resilience and playing talent in the Ibrox final as they had all weekend, but the 2013-14 World Series champions ultimately fell to the better side.

    Coach Gordon Tietjens has been at the side's helm for all four of their past triumphs, and this defeat will be as sour a pill for him to swallow as any.

    However, the streak had to end sometime, and with an extremely talented batch of Springboks up against them, the All Blacks stuttered at a most pivotal juncture.

    Of course, there's no damning assessment to be given to the silver-medal finishers, who were by all means a stern force to watch across the two days; however, by their usual standards, the fall in Glasgow, Scotland, is disappointing.

Winners: South Africa's Stellar Attacking Average

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    Clinching revenge for their runners-up finish in this season's World Series, South Africa managed to strip New Zealand of their right to the throne and will head to Queensland's Gold Coast in four years' time as reigning Sevens champions.

    And that accomplishment was in no small part due to the offensive pedigree of a select few Blitzbokke individuals in Neil Powell's side. 

    Two particularly impressive finishers for the Springboks were Cecil Afrika and Cornal Hendricks. The former has been a staple of their Sevens squad for some time now, whereas Hendricks is a known quantity in Super Rugby these days.

    Between them, the two grabbed 10 tries in the group stages, although it was very much a team effort in making it to the gold-medal contest. But it was actually 21-year-old Seabelo Senatla who grabbed 11 of his own in the tournament to end up on top of the try-scoring ranks.

    It was Afrika's try in the final, too, that ultimately pushed South Africa past their New Zealand foes, enough to see them win by a five-point margin, despite a late All Blacks resurgence.

    In only two of South Africa's six games did they fail to score at least 35 points; one was the final against New Zealand, while the other was their 20-0 victory over Kenya in the pool phase.

Losers: Glasgow Base Does Home Nations No Good

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    Coming into a Commonwealth Games based in Glasgow, the home nations—or at the very least Scotland—may have felt as though the advantage was theirs to take at this year's tournament.

    However, as is currently the case in the 15-per-side game, the Southern Hemisphere's giants ran rampant at the Ibrox, with not one Northern Hemisphere side making it past the medal quarter-finals.

    Scotland, Wales and England each fell to Australia, Samoa and South Africa at this stage, respectively, although the English and Welsh only missed out by one- and two-point margins.

    Wales' 21-19 defeat to the Wallabies was especially embarrassing when one considers they were 19-0 up at one point in the quarter-final clash. They grew complacent as the game wore on and paid the biggest price as a result.

    Eventually, England would settle for a triumph in the Plate final, beating Wales 17-15, which in some ways summed up the Europeans' settling as second best, duking it out between them for consolation prizes.

    In such short-term circumstances as this, it would be presumptuous to form the opinion that these nations are significantly inferior due to these results, but it's yet another sign of how technically and athletically capable those from south of the equator truly are in this sport.

Winners: Commonwealth Audiences Embrace Sevens Like Never Before

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    This might have been the fifth occasion that Sevens has featured at the Commonwealth Games, but it's only the third time to have been played in a country whose indigenous population embraces the sport.

    Kuala Lumpur 1998 and Delhi 2010 weren't exactly stagings of the competition where home fans turned out in throngs with the intention of seeing the Sevens action, but the Ibrox was packed to the rafters with that exact assortment.

    Just as is the case on the World Series scene, audiences treated the day as a miniature party in Glasgow—and indeed a very legitimate party afterward, no doubt—something you wouldn't necessarily find at every Games event.

    And it wasn't just those in attendance who feasted upon the drama, either. With social media reaching farther than ever before, it's simple to see just how many previous nonbelievers were captured by a new form of entertainment:

    @Glasgow2014 Thanks. You were at an advantage as you didn't have to hashtag #CommonwealthGames 😄 (Loving it btw - you're doing a great job!)

    — Andrew P. Sykes (@CyclingEurope) July 26, 2014

    I'm not normally a rugby fan but have to say I'm really enjoying the sevens #CommonwealthGames

    — Gilly G (@gillyboro) July 27, 2014

    I know little to nothing about rugby but actually enjoying the Commonwealth sevens here! #RugbySevens #CommonwealthGames

    — Graeme Wallace (@gwallace6) July 27, 2014

    Total attendance for the two-day tournament at the 50,000-capacity Ibrox ran over 170,000—a new record for a Sevens event staged over just 48 hours, according to BBC commentary.

    There's of course no such thing as a bad event at any Commonwealth Games, but Sevens is far more mainstream than a lot of other practices featured and can hope to benefit greatly on the back of this exposure.

Losers: Emerging Nations Remain Light-Years off the Pace

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    Given that rugby is still far from a common trade for the majority of the planet, several countries at the Commonwealth Games were always likely to get shown up at this level.

    However, one can never truly know how bad it's going to be before the onslaught is right in front of you, and for the likes of Barbados, Malaysia, Uganda and Sri Lanka, it was painful to bear at times.

    Between them, those four sides conceded a grand total of 558 points in the group stage. At three matches apiece, that is equivalent to leaking 47 points per pool game—or nine tries and a conversion.

    These are merely examples, though, and they are far from the only sides who cannot be expected to produce on New Zealand or South Africa proportions, especially at a Commonwealth Games.

    Without proper funding and development, progress will be slow and perhaps even nonexistent at times, but to see such far-flung nations as Trinidad and Tobago even compete is an encouraging sign of the sport's global appeal.

    Shield winners Sri Lanka impressed particularly toward the end of their campaign, grabbing 77 points in their last two games to get the better of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and at least bagging a trophy for their troubles.