It was a big weekend in Vancouver with the running of the HSBC World Series Canada Sevens tournament.
The two days of top level rugby played to sell-out crowds and the contest on the field between all 16 teams was absorbing.
It is no longer just the top teams which draw the interest of fans but the stories unfolding within the series as all teams vie to both excel and even survive.
So what five things did we learn from the Rugby festivities in Vancouver – both on and off the field.
Is there a coup in the offing?
The Blitzboks are beatable – but apparently only by a resurgent England.
South Africa has made every final in every round of the World Series to date and has done so with apparent ease.
This weekend in Vancouver however, seems to have revealed some cracks in the armour.
The Series leader was pushed by the USA in the semi-final, claiming a four point victory by preventing a certain opposition try through stellar defence after the final siren.
England certainly showed it had the ability to unsettle the Blitzboks, keeping them to a draw in the pool round and of course, defeating them in the Cup Final.
England itself has showed a strong return to form with its performance in Canada.
It hit a speed bump in Wellington and even Las Vegas to a certain extent, but has won a second series title and now reclaimed second place in the Series standings above Fiji.
The question then begs, can the men of the Red Rose reel in the 23 point lead held by South Africa with just four rounds to play?
But it will be interesting to see how close they get and how the jockeying for the places below the top spot plays out.
Aussie potential on show
The Aussies got fans excited with a big Sydney Sevens but delivered a reality check in Vegas and Vancouver.
While a sixth and a seventh placing over the past fortnight revealed elements to be revisited on the training track, it also revealed gems of talent in the form of the rookies Andy Friend has recruited.
With the addition of returning experience, the team dynamic needs to adjust and recalibrate.
A top eight finish is the box to be ticked according to the coach’s key objective and that has been done in four of the six rounds.
The potential for top four finishes is certainly starting to emerge but it should be written on the coach’s whiteboard as a work in progress and patience needs to be exercised by those watching from the stands.
Era of the Next Gen
One key element to emerge out of Vancouver has been the new young players being tested by many of the teams and the subsequent talent on show.
Liam McNamara played a starring role in Australia’s defeat of Japan on Day One, showing his potential to get to the try line.
For the Aussies, this comes off the back of Tim Anstee performing well in Sydney and an outstanding three days in Las Vegas for Lachie Anderson, where he was ultimately named the tournament’s Top Try scorer and in the Dream Team.
Experts are all a-buzz watching players such as 19 year old Matias Osadczuk (ARG), 20 year old Alexandre Lagarde (FRA) and 18 year old Vilimoni Koroi (NZL).
All starred for their teams over the weekend, crossing the try line multiple times.
Osadczuk finished in the top three try scorers and was named in the Canada Sevens Dream Team.
Post-Olympics, these young men are among the next generation being blooded by World Sevens teams and who are immediately putting their hands up to be counted.
In just its second year, the Canada Sevens tournament hosted in Vancouver has been a big success for organisers.
In excess of 75,000 people attended BC Stadium over the two day tournament and the event is now being compared to Hong Kong, Sydney and Dubai for crowd support and organisational effectiveness.
Chile proved its core value
By the end of the Canada Sevens weekend, 16th team Chile had impressed both opposition teams and fans alike with some coaches saying it was the best 16th team they had come up against this season.
The invitational teams which make up the full list at each tournament are regional teams that have earned the right to run around with ‘the big boys’ for two rounds on the World Series – providing invaluable top level experience.
Despite finishing Day One without a win – not uncommon for the 16th team – Chile pushed Kenya, leading 19-0 at half time and only losing by one converted try in the end.
It moved on to defeat Russia, two tries to nil, in the Trophy quarter final on Day Two, going down to Wales, the eventual Trophy winner, in the semi by nine points having lead at half time.
The Vancouver competition has been invaluable experience for Chile, now heading to Hong Kong to compete in the Men’s Qualifying tournament for the right to be a permanent member of the core list for the 2017/2018 Series.
In a pool with top contender Hong Kong, Chile has a very good chance of being in the mix in the finals with the host and the likes of Spain, Germany and PNG.
Time spent over the past fortnight at the elite level of the competition will stand Chile in very good stead for this next challenge.
In a nutshell, Vancouver gave us teams to watch and players applaud.