From a New Zealand perspective at least, Hamilton's inaugural sevens will be remembered more for its success off the field than on.

After setting themselves up nicely with three wins from three on day one, Clark Laidlaw's inconsistent team blew too many chances and, thus, couldn't fulfil the fairytale.

In the end they finished fourth, dumped out in a tense 14-12 semifinal loss to eventual champions Fiji, before losing the third playoff by one point to Australia after a last play penalty.

Fret not, though. In this tournament's first year, the periphery was arguably more important.


Wellington's demise left Hamilton to fill the void and prove its worth as host. After two sold out days featuring some brilliant matches and exceptional atmosphere for games of significance, consider that box ticked.

In New Zealand's loss to Fiji the animated crowd traded chants that reverberated around the stadium, setting the tone for fantastic finales to come.

Teething issues around long waits for drinks and the meltdown of an unnecessary electronic bracelet payment system left fans frustrated on day one.

Otherwise, though, the event, proved a hit.

In an epic decider it seemed fitting Fiji took down South Africa 24-17. The Olympic gold medallists were the darlings here from the outset, enjoying amazing and colourful support.

For Hamilton, the challenge is to now buck the trend when it comes to these abbreviated formats and maintain interest year-on-year.

The blueprint has been set. This time, thankfully, they got the balance right. The fun police backed off, leaving those with slightly disturbing oversized baby heads and banana outfits to merrily mingle.

Waikato Stadium, a purpose-built rugby ground, offers intimate views of an immaculate surface, probably the best in the country.


It helped, too, that the weather played its part, with those in the party zone dancing and singing long into the evening sun. And the main stand, where punters who consistently focused on the rugby parked up, was packed throughout.

Unlike other comparable events such as the NRL Auckland Nines, New Zealand's disappointingly premature exit failed to even remotely kill the vibe.

"It's hard to find a highlight when you don't win it but people were loving the occasion," Laidlaw said. "Hamilton has done an amazing job.

"It was disappointing. There were pretty tight margins across the weekend and unfortunately we were on the other side in that game.

"We had a couple of missed chances. We just talked then about how it will make us stronger. That's our fourth tournament in. We're a new coaching group, coaching against teams that have had coaches for three, four, five years. South Africa have 400 tournaments between them.

"We're realistic about where we're at in terms of our development but we're bloody frustrated to lose.

"Playing under that pressure and developing leadership on and off the field we'll better for it."

Rookies Caleb Clarke and Etene Nanai-Seturo, both 18, impressed at times in their second tournaments but playmaker Vilimoni Koroi, who injured his elbow in the semifinal, was the undoubted star for New Zealand, with Scott Curry's tenacious work ethic not far behind.
Koroi's poise, footwork and acceleration needs more support to truly thrive.

"People forget he's only 19. He's a pretty special talent."

Laidlaw's next task ahead of the tournament in Las Vegas on March 2 is to nominate 18 players for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Defensive improvements, specifically some one-on-one tackling, remains a concern but one tournament victory and two final appearances suggests they are not too far away.

Maybe in 12 months they can take this event up another notch or two by taking out the title.

Then again, those on their feet until the final whistle weren't bothered by New Zealand's fate.

Expect many back next year to savour the sevens revival. ​

To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here