Black and blue are familiar colors in rugby. Sporting bumps and bruises in the locker room after a full-contact match comes with the territory.
At the HSBC Sydney Sevens 2019, two players – one in black and one in blue – gave the colors new meaning: high impact. New Zealand’s untiring speedster Michaela Blyde and Samoa’s rising star Joe Perez outperformed the rest to become the DHL Impact Players of the tournament.
WATCH: Michaela Blyde in action
An incredible impact
By winning the DHL Impact Player Award in Sydney, Michaela Blyde topped off a fantastic tournament. Not only did the Black Ferns go unbeaten throughout the weekend, conceding only 34 points in six matches, Blyde scored a hattrick in the final as her team rolled over Australia 34-10. The Taranaki speedster, who developed her pace on the athletics track, posted an amazing 37 carries along with 9 offloads, 7 breaks, and 4 tackles for a total of 57 points. Her closest rival on the DHL Performance Tracker was France’s Shannon Izar, who chalked up 51 points on 30 carries and 10 offloads. Blyde rounded off the tournament with seven tries, which puts her atop that table as well with 20 on the Series.
The defending DHL Impact Player from both the 2017-18 and 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series now moves into second place behind Russia’s Alena Mikhaltsova, whose 46 points in Sydney on 25 carries and 15 tackles put her at 146 total points and twelve ahead of Blyde. Mikahltsova was named DHL Impact Player in a crowd-pleasing performance at the opening round in Glendale, Colorado.
With Sydney marking the halfway point in the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series 2019, the current standings feel all-too familiar. Last year, Mikhaltsova topped the DHL Performance Tracker half way through after the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens, only be overtaken by Blyde’s high-impact play down the stretch.
WATCH: Joe Perez in action
A rock-solid return
Making his first appearance of the season, Samoa’s Joe Perez last featured on the sevens scene in July at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco. Perez has been a rising star, proving himself a real threat on both offense and defense since his debut with the Samoa Sevens team in 2017. His impactful return to the sevens pitch comes as no surprise to anyone.
The Samoan workhorse and nephew of former sevens star Paul Perez was strong across the board, posting a total of 40 points off 24 carriers, 3 offloads, 6 breaks, and 7 tackles. Unfortunately, he and his team struggled to find their footing overall, losing all but their final two matches and settling for 13th place.
Though he has yet to be named a DHL Impact Player this season, All Black Sione Molina still tops the DHL Performance Tracker with 146 points, eight points clear of Fiji’s Vilimoni Botitu, who was named the DHL Impact Player at the HSBC Hamilton Sevens.
Black is back
Black has certainly been the dominant color on the 2018-19 HSBC World Rugby Men’s and Women's Sevens. After taking gold in Sydney, the Black Ferns Sevens now hold all six titles on the series. They are now one win shy of equaling their record of 37 victories in a row on the series that they set across 2014 and 2015.
The All Blacks took the honors in Sydney in the men’s tournament, ruthlessly denying the USA the gold medal – a team that has now lost all four finals this season. New Zealand’s men also went unbeaten in the tournament, conceding only 38 points on their road to victory. To cap off an amazing performance, they performed a spine-tingling Haka in front of the winner’s stand.
It’s their second win of the season after the triumph in Dubai in November. With two gold and four silvers medals, respectively, the All Blacks and the Eagles are now tied in the overall standings.
Next up: Las Vegas & Vancouver
After consecutive tournament weekends in the Southern Hemisphere, the men get a few weeks to recover and ready themselves for back-to-back battles on the opposite side of the planet. The HSBC Las Vegas Sevens is set for March 1-3, with the Vancouver Sevens following a week later March 9-10. The women meet again in Kitakyushu on April 20-21.
DHL Impact Player Award
A rugby player produces moments of skill and flair that are critical to a team’s success on the pitch, in the same way that DHL uses care and commitment to service your shipments. The DHL Impact Player Award recognizes such moments using a statistical analysis of individual players performances measured against four key criteria: Offloads, Carries, Linebreaks and Tackles. The scores are compiled and presented on the DHL Performance Tracker, where the total score for each player is a combination of each criteria.
A winner is announced at the end of each individual tournament and the Overall Series Winner is judged across all 10 legs for Men’s and all 5 for the Women’s.