Vancouver, Canada – The 2015/2016 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series crossed the halfway point this weekend. The most competitive in the history of the series finished its 6th (of 10) legs in Vancouver that featured some impressive action including huge upsets along with last minute smash and grabs in pool play and in the knockout rounds. The knockout stage led to a NZ All Black 7s win, which puts them back in the race for the overall standings leader. By the end of this tournament Fiji were tenuously holding on to first place in the standings and the USA is closer to locking up fifth place with fourth still a strong possibility. Let’s review:
USA Finishes 6th:
The @Eagles7s had a great tournament all things considered. Missing 4 regulars including 3 tour veterans that normally are crucial to success in big time playmaker Maka Unufe, Sevens Dream Team member Zach Test and the fastest man in rugby, Carlin Isles. They had a very impressive day in pool play and then pushed the series leaders to their limit before finishing sixth. The Eagles were placed in the group of death round and they seemed surprisingly un-phased by it. Their first match was against a France side that was struggling for form but still dangerous. They USA did not come out slow, for once. The USA started out like a house on fire and refused to let the French breath or even get involved in the first half. They finished the first half up 28-0 and they only slightly let up in the second half as they won, 42-14. The USA was then presented with the challenge of taking on England in their next match. The English had beaten the USA three times already this season and finished fourth in the standings last year. However, the English have been on a bad run of form and that run coincided with the USA’s rich vein of form. This collision of two teams on team different ends of the the form spectrum played into the USA’s favor and the USA lead for most of the match as they won, 17-12.
Following that win, the USA finished day 1 up against heavyweights New Zealand. Though New Zealand’s blackness has lost some shine they are still one of the best in the world. USA defended well but struggled to handle the New Zealand firepower and wave after wave of attack. The USA was also limited in its possession due to the New Zealand defense and ruck work. In the end the USA managed to score a try at the death to prevent a shutout, but the Kiwis won comfortably, 17-5.
Day 2 for the Eagles was filled with disappointment and hope. They were in the Cup quarter-finals against Fiji, arguably the best side in the comp, though they need improved consistency. The match was an instant classic as the USA got out to a fast start, Fiji fought back and the USA held the lead up until the final hooter when Fiji scored to tie the game and force sudden death. In the extra time, the Fijians found a way once again to find the ability and magic necessary to score and win the game, 31-26. After that heartbreak, despite it being one of the best games of 7s ever, the USA then took on Wales in the Plate semifinal game and showed a lot of fight. They bounced back from the Fiji loss and were able to romp over a feisty Wales side with ease, 38-12. After that the Eagles were chasing 5th place and needed to beat Samoa. The fatigue from the Fiji match may have finally caught up with the side. The USA traded early tries and tried to fight on but Samoa went ahead and the USA fell 31-19, though they did score the final try in the match.
Now to the winners…
The All Black 7s are victorious:
Its tight at the top. Last year’s top 3 sides are back at it again. Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand are separated by 3 points. One bad tournament and you are in a deep hole and the pressure just grows and grows. The only good thing is that the sides usually face each other, so they control their own fate. New Zealand won Vancouver by going undefeated in pool play and sending a huge warning shot to the other two sides. The Blackness had to go through some tough Southern Hemisphere competition. They faced a very tough Cup quarter-final from the Samoans and were lucky to emerge victorious as they got loads of 50/50 calls. They followed up that win by defeating their ancient foe from across the ditch, the Aussies. They then moved on to a big time final’s clash against the South Africans and in an incredibly tight match that was not resolved until the very end when the ball went out of bounds just after the hooter.
Australia continued their good run of form. They had finished second, second, fourth and now third over the last four rounds. They are securely in the fourth spot though the USA is still possibly in touching distance. They shockingly lost to Canada in the pool stages but managed to get their act together and make it through to the Cup quarters. The lost to New Zealand in the cup semi but were able to bounce back from that and secure 3rd place by upsetting the Fijians.
Samoa remain consistently inconsistent. They had a strong first day outside of losing to Fiji. They shook off the loss to New Zealand then went on a roll as they defeated Scotland and then the USA to win the Plate… Canada had to bounce back from a crushing at the hooter loss to Wales which would prove to knock them from the Cup playoffs into the Bowl playoffs. The home team would show their resolve by going undefeated on day 2 winning three tough matches to claim to Bowl… Russia had a poor start to the tournament losing their first four matches. They managed to least salvage their campaign by winning the final two matches and winning the Shield as consolation for their perseverance.
Final standings were
Cup: New Zealand
Second: South Africa
The next leg will be in Hong Kong. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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