MUNICH (MunichNOW Sport) — Top-class rugby returned to Munich this weekend as the second Oktoberfest7s tournament took place at the Olympic Stadium. The inaugural event, won by Australia, was held in 2017 but was cancelled last year.
The two-year wait did little to damped enthusiasm, though, as thousands of fans flocked to the stadium on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon. There was no shortage of fancy dress, from an army of self-title ‘frog kings’ to human pretzels, reflecting the party atmosphere on offer.
Australia’s hopes of retaining their title were ended by the end of Saturday; despite hammering a hapless England 40-0 in the opening game of Group A, Australia were edged out 17-14 by New Zealand and beaten 26-19 by South Africa. South Africa had earlier beaten New Zealand 19-12 and both sides eased past England, who scored just 14 points and conceded 102 in their three games, meaning the Springboks topped the group ahead of the All Blacks.
In Group B, Germany delighted the home faithful with wins over France (22-19) and the USA (22-7). Defeat to 2017 runners-up, Fiji, meant Germany settled for second place behind the Fijians, ensuring both sides would feature in Sunday’s semi-finals.
The cloudy sky overhead was of little concern to those who made their way to the stadium on Sunday morning, with the hope that Germany could seal a shock tournament win helping fuel a raucous crowd.
Australia and USA opened the second day proceedings in the first of the ‘best-of-the-rest’ ties, with the Wallabies winning 31-17. England’s miserable tournament continued as they fell to a 33-12 defeat to France.
The first semi-final saw hosts Germany take on South Africa. A try apiece saw South Africa’s 12-7 half-time lead become 17-12, before a late surge from Germany got the crowd buzzing. They were metres away from scoring a try that would have at least sealed a draw – or a win if converted – but a handling error allowed South Africa, who were down to six men following Stedman Gans’ yellow card, to clear their lines and seal a spot in the final.
New Zealand took on Fiji in the second semi-final. The All Blacks dominated territory in the first half but found the Fijian brick wall of a defence impenetrable until 20 seconds before half time. Both sides scored after the break, but New Zealand failed to convert theirs, meaning their 7-0 half-time lead was reduced to 12-7. It looked as though New Zealand would hold on, before Fiji captain Terio Veilawa broke away to score a spectacular solo try with only seconds remaining. The subsequent conversion was the last action of the game, sealing the extra 2 points and with them victory and a place in the final.
After an hour-long break of music, dancing, and entertainment, England and the USA got things going again with the 7th place decider. England avoided the ignominy of coming last courtesy of a 12-7 win, although George Barber running into the post when scoring seemed easier before getting sin-binned a minute later, did seem to encapsulate England’s tournament.
Australia thrashed France 33-5 to claim fifth place, before Germany were welcomed to the pitch with a deafening roar to take on New Zealand in the bronze medal match.
Germany twice came from behind in a gripping first half that ended 12-12, before piling the pressure on their illustrious opponents after the break. However, a collision left Bastian Himmer injured and only able to limp around the pitch, effectively leaving the home side down to six men. New Zealand took full advantage, grabbing a try that gave them a 17-12 lead. Another one soon followed, securing third place for the All Blacks.
The final pitted South Africa against Fiji, who were looking to go one better than in 2017. A try apiece saw the sides enter the half-time break level at 5-5, before Vuniona Vuki gave Fiji a 10-5 lead mid-way through the second period. Typically resilient defending from the Fijians looked to have got them over the line, only for Siviwe Soyizwapi to grab a try at the death. With the clock showing 0:00, Dewald Human held his nerve to add the extras, making it 12-10 and ensuring Fiji would once again go home with silver medals.
The dramatic finish was a fitting finale to a day full of action, excitement, and quality rugby, that ended with South Africa as the new Oktoberfest7s champions.