PORT ELIZABETH, S.A. – The start to the 2014/2015 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series can be described with one word; unexpected. We’re only a third of the way through the season but we’re wrapping our minds around these two facts: the USA has won hardware in 2 of the 3 stops and defending champion New Zealand has yet to win a tournament. If offered a chance to bet, how many of you would take those odds? We know we wouldn’t.
USA Wins The Plate:
The @Eagles7s had a very successful tournament. The team worked hard on their defensive shape during the week and it paid off for them. Unfortunately, they were the first victims of the tournament host and champion, South Africa, but there’s no shame in that and we’ll talk more about the Cup winners when we review the whole tournament. Suffice to say, though, the Saffies are the most complete team in the Series this year. Yet while the 26-0 scoreline was not great, it was 5-0 at halftime and was a more contested match than the final score indicates.
Following that loss, the USA came out sharply against Wales and capitalized on the mistakes of the Welshman to win comfortably, 38-12. That win put the USA in a very good position. All they needed to do was defeat Kenya to qualify. And you know what? The team was not phased by the pressure. It also helped that they were up against the poorest-looking Kenya side in years, which is a story unto itself. The USA won comfortably, 33-5.
Day 2 for the Eagles started out with another massive challenge as they took on the defending champion, New Zealand All Blacks 7s. Carlin Isles managed to score one of the best tries of the tournament but it would not be enough. The All Blacks had too much class for the Eagles and won 28-7.
Once again, the Eagles showed their resiliency and bounced back in the plate semi-final by defeating Scotland, 26-19. This put the USA in the plate final. You may remember from our South Africa 7s preview that we mentioned the USA’s inability to challenge the series’ top teams. Well, this was a chance for the Eagles to make us eat crow (like Tom Burwell of @UR7s and Sky Sports pundits Chris Cracknell and Ollie Phillips did as per our in-tourney Twitter predictions). Coach Mike Friday’s charges showed their improvement against Fiji. The Flyin’ Fijians went in ranked number #1 (are now #2).
The game was tight and physical, yet the USA held their nerve and showed the faith required for victory. The USA won 21-14, to take the well-earned plate via a new-found defensive effort, which held their opponents to under 30 points; including two of the world’s best.
Before moving on, we must address the Perry Baker situation. Watch below.
Baker came under fire for kicking a fan that came onto the field during the USA’s first match against South Africa. His actions were labelled ungentlemanly, mean-spirited and some even had the audacity to claim it was because he was American because “someone raised with the game would not have reacted in such a way.” Baker later apologized via Twitter for the incident. We want to make it clear that we stand 100 percent behind Perry on this. In fact we made it clear in Social Media that we’d still be kicking the interloper. Perry was tackled during open play while the game was still going on. He was blindsided by the fan. He did not seek out and grab the idiot. Instead, with the disorientation of being tackled and realizing it was a buffoon who had run onto the pitch to disrupt the game, he gave the guy a reminder of that age-old proverb “If you don’t want to get hurt for doing something stupid, then don’t do anything stupid.”
Now to the winners…
The Unstoppable and Mighty Blitzbokke:
As we mentioned, this South Africa Blitzbokke side is the most complete side in the series. The have a great balance of speed, power and skill. They dominate the breakdown, move the ball wide with precision and their speed merchants do the rest. On defense, they stifle, smother and force mistakes. They easily ran away with most matches and when pushed by fellow heavyweights, England in the quarterfinals and New Zealand in the final, they remained unrattled as they cruised to victory.
New Zealand is third in the overall standings even though they haven’t won any of the three tournaments. But they have made either the plate final, cup semi-final or cup final in all three. The rest of the nations in the series should be more than a little bit concerned with how successful the All Blacks 7s have been, despite not yet hitting their stride.
Australia are doing well under the new stewardship of Welshman Geraint John. They came second in their group to Argentina, who they lost to in pool play but ultimately did defeat to win third place. John’s old team, Canada, struggled on Day 1 but played better on Day 2 on the previous stops. This was the case again as they managed to rebound from a bad Day 1 to win the Bowl… Portugal also found form on Day 2 and surprised a very out of form Samoa to win the Shield. Nice to see Pedro Leal playing well.
Final standings were
Cup: South Africa
Second: New Zealand
The next leg will be in Wellington, New Zealand in the first week of February. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp,Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.