After two weeks of intense and fiery bouts, Ireland (Men) and England (Women) are your new Rugby Europe 7’s Trophy champions, finishing with style (and undefeated for twelve games) in what was an excellent competition.
Juicy tries, spicy skills, marvelous handling, and speed that would make the finest V8 motor envious, it is time to pick the seven players that stood out across the two weekends of 7's action.
ELLIE BOATMAN (ENGLAND)
England women's team were unbeatable from start to finish, outpacing and outclassing their opponents from game one, finishing the competition with a smashing 108 tries scored and no points conceded in what was a truly dominant display.
Amongst all the brilliant players, we picked Eleanor Boatman as one of the best of the Trophy division, as the flamboyant speedster was insatiable when it came to finishing opportunities presented to her, notching twenty tries in England's victorious campaign, three of them scored in the Budapest final played against Italy.
Her ability to go from walking speed to a sprinting frenzy is just stunning – literally, as her opponents get stuck to the ground – and it really gave England an extra shift, powering through her foes and towards the title.
JORDAN CONROY (IRELAND)
Ireland clinched a perfect run after successfully defeating every opponent either in the Zagreb or Budapest 7’s, and there were a couple of players who really ran loose like Sean Cribbin, Sean Kearns, or Billy Dardis, but our pick landed on Jordan Conroy.
The powerful runner didn’t play in the second stage of the 7’s Trophy division (due to injury), but we couldn’t overlook what he did in Zagreb, as he grabbed a hattrick in the final against England, while drawing some of the best rugby-magic tricks of that first weekend.
A gifted player that breathes life to the 7’s razzle and dazzle spirit, and that has the means to be an all-time legend for Ireland in the years to come.
MARIANA MARQUES (PORTUGAL)
For Portugal, the 2022 Rugby Europe Trophy 7’s finished on a high, as they achieved promotion after a good display in the Zagreb or Budapest stages, due to the efforts of a young and ambitious team.
Amid the names that rode the 7’s wave, Mariana Marques more than deserves to feature, as she really got the job done on the breakdown, keeping the ball alive, supporting her teammates, and rising to the occasion when things were tense.
Yes, she didn’t finish on the top of the try scorers’ sheet, but 7’s can't be only defined by going for the 5 points, as before that there’s heavy work to be done, and Mariana Marques did that job with ease.
FRANCESCA GRANZOTTO (ITALY)
Try-scorer, enforcer, breakdown scavenger, Francesca Granzotto can do it all and was one of the menaces that came out of Italy, who were able to win a silver medal in this year's Trophy campaign.
Twelve tries in the Azzurri's excellent campaign, Granzotto can look small at first glance, but size doesn't decide the quality or potential of an athlete, as the Italian winger is a pocket rocket fueled by an array of skills that can turn any game into a show.
Her prowess to take the ball and take the opposition by surprise can be a gamechanger – as it was against Portugal in Zagreb -, combining this skill with her tenacity to fight in every ruck, tackle or air battle, being an impacting nuisance for the opposition.
JOE BROWNING (ENGLAND)
England came short in their title hopes, but the Rose has a bright future ahead, as new stars are finally taking the stage, with Joe Browning deserving our praise. If you ask the fans that follow the matches closely, they will certainly tell you that the speedster holds the talent to quick-and-step with grace and class, pedaling his feet quicker than the human eye can (almost) see.
The youngster from the Leicester Academy program is a joy to watch play, taking shortcuts to reach the try area as quickly as possible, picking the right fights in the right moments, which can make the opposing side nervous most of the time.
MINONNA NUNSTEDT (SWEDEN)
We talked about try-scoring machines, speedsters of the purest quality, and joyous tricksters, but there’s still space to go for the enforcers category, and Swedish Minona Nunstedt falls perfectly in that group.
A towering athlete that commands a respectful presence, she can really do damage to the opposing players, as it requires more than one to take her down, swatting tacklers and keep charging through until she reaches for the whitewash or has time to offload to one of her teammates.
She was one of the best enforcers of the Trophy Women’s division, and a beacon of physicality that makes Sweden a threatening side.
COLE SWANNACK (WALES)
Wales was able to earn the bronze medal and really shake things up in the future if their 7’s program can continue to develop gifted athletes, such as the likes of Cole Swannack, who arose as one of the best of the Welsh side.
Silky handling skills, powerful carrier, and a monster tackler that can inject momentum into his squad, the Welshman was a thorn on England’s side in the Budapest 7’s semi-final, as he kept throwing his best moves from the first minute until the final whistle.
The 24-year-old can become a key player for the Welsh side in years to come.