New Zealand clinch 11th Series crown
Round 1 - Australia, Gold Coast
At round one on Australia's sun-kissed Gold Coast Fiji, with eight Series debutantes, successfully defended their title, beating New Zealand 32-14 in a repeat of the 2011 final.
"I thank the lord for everything he has done for us, especially the new boys," said player of the tournament, Joji Raqamate. "They pulled up their socks and came to this level of rugby and I am thankful for that. This is the first time for us to go back-to-back and retain the title again. It was a hard effort and I take my hat off to the boys.”
Round 2 - Dubai
At round two in Dubai New Zealand again reached the final, but once again hit a Pacific Island roadblock, this time in the shape of Samoa, who beat them 26-15.
"It was touch and go," admitted their captain, Afa Aiono. "New Zealand are a pretty good team but our boys stepped up and played their hearts out. We are really proud of what the boys did today. They did a really good job and achieved what we were aiming for and won their first ever Cup in Dubai."
Round 3 - South Africa, Port Elizabeth
Straight off the back of Dubai the teams travelled on to the Nelson Mandela Bay SA Sevens in Port Elizabeth and this time New Zealand did manage to claim that elusive first win of the season. On his birthday, Gordon Tietjens' side first beat the hosts 12-5 and then surprise finalists France 47-12 to clinch a first Cup of the season and a fourth in succession on South African soil.
"It was an awesome birthday present," Tietjens said, "my five core experienced players of Cama, Forbes, Mikkelson, Raikabula and Baker were just outstanding and for the younger players to learn and those guys will kick on when the others are not around. It was important. We were beaten by a good Samoa last time, beaten by Fiji in Australia. We had to win this one."
The win in South Africa left New Zealand top of the Series standings at the end of 2012 on 60 points. France moved up to second on 46, Fiji were down to third on 44.
Round 4 - New Zealand, Wellington
After mis-firing badly at the first three rounds, England hit form in Wellington and stunned the hosts in pool play. Kenya also played well, memorably beating New Zealand in the semi-finals, but they came up just short of their first ever Series win in the final, Sam Edgerley diving over in sudden death extra time to rescue England's season.
"It is just fantastic, I am overwhelmed to be honest," said an emotional Edgerley. "It is my first tournament win for England and I am the proudest man in the world. We didn't have the best start to the season so we made a promise to ourselves to get out of it, and we did."
Round 5 - USA, Las Vegas
Round five would bring another different winner, Cecil Afrika returning from injury to inspire South Africa. The Boks were simply unstoppable, beating Series leaders New Zealand 40-12 to kick-start what would be an impressive second half of the season for them.
"There are no words. It was just tremendous fight from the boys," said outstanding playmaker, Paul Delport. "We set such high standards for ourselves and this is huge for us. We put in so much effort back home, there are just no words, it is testament to the guys."
And so as the season ticked past the halfway stage, with just four rounds left to play New Zealand led the Series but already there were five different winners from the opening five tournaments.
Round 6 - Hong Kong
Hong Kong took on double significance by staging the sixth round of the Series and also pre-qualifying for core team status in 2013/14. Russia, Zimbabwe, Tonga and Georgia all kept alive their hopes, but in the main event Wales were the talk of the town, leading in the final 19-0 before succumbing to super-sub Osea Kolinisau’s second half hat-trick as the Fijians won 26-19.
"We just said that we needed hope and we needed to keep the faith, to keep on working because 10 minutes is a lot of time in Sevens. It is a really good feeling to go back-to-back here and especially to be the first team to win two Cups this season," said Kolinisau, perhaps inspired by the watching Waisale Serevi, who was inducted on the night into the IRB Hall of Fame.
Round 7 - Japan, Tokyo
If Fiji had clawed back some of New Zealand's lead in Hong Kong, the kiwis did their Series aspirations no harm a week later by reaching another final in biting conditions. They led 12-0 at the break, too, but once again South Africa had their number and ran out 24-19 winners.
"It is unbelievable. For us we have been so unlucky throughout the year, and to come back again after a disappointing tournament in Hong Kong, to bounce back and give a performance like that, it is not every day you beat New Zealand twice in the final," said coach Paul Treu, whose side moved second above Fiji and Samoa in the Series standings for the first time.
Round 8 - Scotland, Glasgow
At the penultimate round much of the focus was on the bottom of the table, where hosts Scotland and USA faced an almighty tussle to finish 12th and avoid the relegation play-offs in London. With the Eagles lifting a second successive Plate Scotland were left in the mire, while in the Cup England and Wales both performed well to reach the semis. But once again it was green and black in the final and for a third time the Blitzbokke responded with a heart-stopping 28-21 win against NZ.
"I’m so proud of the boys," said Paul Delport. "Everyone stepped up this weekend. Our preparation wasn't great with lots of injuries and it means a lot to beat New Zealand. Once you get to the top teams it used to be three or four, but now it is like eight and to come out on top of that is just extra special."
Round 9 - England, London
Even in winning the Glasgow title, though, the South Africans had been powerless to prevent the All Blacks Sevens from claiming an 11th Series title and they arrived in London looking to rubber-stamp that success, which they did emphatically, beating Australia 47-12 to take the Cup.
"We just took it one game at a time. Kenya was very hard, even Australia we knew was going to be a tough one. We work really hard and you get a lot when you work hard. We have got a great team here and a lot of young players. Tim Mikkelson was simply outstanding,” said coach Gordon Tietjens.
In the nerve-jangling core team qualifier, Spain, Portugal and Scotland all re-booked that same status for 2013/14 - a giant relief for all three.
"We are delighted, we normally talk about enjoying our rugby but today that's not been possible," admitted Scotland's captain, Colin Gregor. "But we rose to the occasion and we are back on the Series. It is horrendous being down here so we need to make sure we start the season properly.”