Lookback at Grand Glasgow 7s: Flyin Fijians, Eagles Finish Fourth

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Madison Hughes of the USA  (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – We have said it before but it warrants repeating: The 2014/2015 World Rugby Organization HSBC Sevens World Series has been, without a doubt, the most unpredictable and tightest in the history of the series. Maybe it is the addition of Olympic qualification to the stakes? Or that the gap is closing between the top tier and the lower tiers?  Whatever it is, we are just glad to be  watching it all unfold. The recent Glasgow 7s was a great example of the unpredictable nature of the this year’s competition.

The USA managed to surprise and finish fourth. The Flying Fijians remained on fire, as they over took South Africa for the Series lead by knocking off the Saffers and winning the whole tournament.

Let’s review:
USA Finish Fourth:
The @Eagles7s had another mixed tournament. Mixed in a positive sense because despite not yet being quite the finished article, there were moments when a clutch performance was needed and they delivered. They didn’t answer the call every time but they did enough to secure fourth – and fans have to be happy with that.

Day 1 started out ominously after the squad was crushed by Canada in their first match. The USA-Canada border war always gets the blood boiling. It is such a good rivalry across many sports. In this match, it appeared that the Eagles hit snooze and went back to bed. Unfortunately for them, the Canadians got up early, had their Tim Horton’s coffee and bossed the match from start to finish. The Maple Leafs crushed the USA. The final score of 40-0 was a fair representation of the action on the pitch.

Following that loss, the USA took on Japan and won comfortably, 38-7. Going in, no one was quite sure what to expect. Japan just tied  Argentina and the USA had the aforementioned drubbing. Whe the last tournament seemed to all about Carlin Isles, this one would be about Maka Unufe and Perry Baker. Baker started in place of Isles and though he didn’t score in the match, he had on effect on the play and helped free up opportunities for the rest of the squad. Unufe showed his ability to create for others and finish on his own, as the USA hit their stride and dominated the match. The win put the Eagles in a familiar position as they needed to defeat Argentina to qualify for the cup.

Baker didn’t wait to make an impression in the match. He kicked of the scoring with a great break, setting the tone as the USA scored two more tries after that. It was also impressive that the USA took the lead early and played smart and composed rugby to close out the Argentinians.

Day 2 for the Eagles saw the Eagles prove they can dig deep, though they will wish they dug deeper. The big test came when key player and veteran Zach Test went down in the cup quarterfinal against Australia. Once again the aforementioned duo of Unufe and Baker put their hands up and carried the team on their backs. Baker scored a brilliant, practically full length try by himself, to draw the score at 7-7. From there it was Unufe who took the opportunity to go 70 meters to give the USA the lead. After that, a bit of solid defense helped the USA close out and win 14-7. Now they were in the cup semi-final against… the Flyin’ Fijians. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Fijians are just a buzzsaw right now; they are slicing through all comers. The USA weren’t dominated but they just didn’t have enough match-winning class when it was needed. Fiji won 19-5. The loss meant the USA would battle England for 3rd place.

Though losing the match to Mother England was nothing to be ashamed off, the USA can feel very frustrated at the loss. We know England are a quality side but the USA made early errors that gifted England a lead as the Brits mercilessly pounced on the Eagle mistakes. The USA fought back in the second half but England did enough to hold on an win a tight one, 24-19.

Unufe was named to the tournament Dream Team, so the longest consecutive streak of an Eagle making that distinguished squad continues.

One tournament remains and yes, making fourth place is officially impossible. But full credit to the triumvirate of Alex Magleby (Director of Performance), Mike Friday and Chris Brown (Assistant Coach), as they have easily made this the best season for the Eagles ever.

Now to the winners…

High Flying Fijians:
As we mentioned earlier, this Fiji squad are carving up all comers. Whether against  top tier side or minnow, they are simply unrelenting. The cup win in Glasgow is their 4 tournament win of the year. There have been only 8 legs so far, so that means they have won half of all the tournaments played. We all believed acquisition of former England head coach Ben Ryan would make them a tough side to beat. We weren’t sure how long it would take, but we didn’t see it happening this fast. According to Osea Kolinisau, Fiji’s captain, “We thank Ben Ryan for letting us have it at half-time. We weren’t playing the same way as we have done and we turned it around.” After that rough talking to by Ryan, Fiji were aggressive in attack and defense and with two big no-try calls going in their favor, they managed to win the Cup against the New Zealand. The Fijians won the cup by successfully defeating the first, fourth and third place teams in the standings (going into Glasgow).

We discussed the English win over the USA for fourth place. We don’t want it to seem as though we are denying England full credit because they had a great tournament and their only loss was to eventual winner Fiji. South Africa suffered their lowest finish of the season as they had to console themselves with the Plate. Like the other top sides they were knocked out of the Cup by Fiji. They came back from that loss to win a dramatic Plate final match against a fired up Scotland.

In the Bowl, Wales found some great form on the second day as the were able to vanquish all comers and walk away with some hardware.  The Welsh held tough in a fierce match against Argentina to secure the win. The shield final had some quality entertainment of it s as own Samoa fought off Portugal to win in the Shield. Despite their great effort Portugal did not have enough to stop the Samoans, were found that extra gear when they needed it to win the match.

Final standings were

Cup: Fiji
Second: New Zealand

Third: England
Plate: South Africa
Bowl: Wales
Shield: Samoa

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, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Audrey Youn, Akweley Okine, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

 

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About the Author ()

Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.

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