Las Vegas, USA – The 2015/2016 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series rolls on and it seems that without a doubt it is the most competitive in the history of the series. Yes even more competitive than last year. The 5th leg in Las Vegas saw some top teams stumble in pool play while others rose to the occasion. The knockout stage led to a Fiji win, which may seem like not a big deal, but it was. By the end of this tournament Fiji had taken a solid lead in the standings and the USA had risen to fifth. Let’s review:
USA Finishes 4th:
The @Eagles7s had a very promising tournament, struggling in pool play and finishing second and then playing will enough to get into the Cup semi-final before finishing fourth. The Eagles once again received a gift from the schedule-makers with their first game against Wales. They USA came out slow once again. The USA got dragged into a slugfest after a fast start due to some sloppy play on both sides of the ball allowing Wales to be competitive, before the USA went on to pull it out, 19-12. The USA was then under press to come out guns blazing against Canada in their next match. The Eagles suffered the lost of playmaker, Maka Unufe, to a first-half injury. Losing Unufe appeared to rattle the Eagles as they blew a second-half lead of 26-7, to end up up tied 26-26 at the final whistle.
Following that draw, the USA had to start Day 2 up against heavyweights South Africa. They USA had no answer for the Blitzbokke firepower as they also had to fight through some minor injuries. In the end the USA was shutout 29-0, yet still managed. That loss put the USA in a precarious position but thankfully they progressed on points different into the cup round. They were in the Cup quarter-finals against Kenya, a side that they had recently struggled against. Thankfully Mike Friday’s charges bounced back re-discovered their skills and passion and were able to win, 26-14.
Day 3 for the Eagles was filled with disappointment and hope. They took on Fiji in the Cup semifinal game and showed a lot of fight. Having also lost Will Holder along with Unufe, the USA was down to a 10 man squad. Despite that, the Eagles went blow for blow with the eventual champions and fell short, 21-14. After that the Eagles were chasing 3rd place and needed to beat the Blitzbokke. The USA traded early tries and tried to fight on but towards the end, SA went ahead and the fatigue of playing with a 10 mans squad finally caught up with Team USA losing 21-10. The fight the eagles displayed gave fans a lot of hope that they will carry it into the next round
Now to the winners…
The Flying Fijians uplift a nation:
Under normal conditions the Fiji national team plays under a lot of pressure. The country is rugby mad and 7s is their national game. Las Vegas was the first sevens tournament since Tropical Storm Winston ripped through the archipelago of more than 300 island only a couple weeks back. The Fijians came out the gates slow, losing to Samoa on day 1. That would be the last match they lost as they went on to finish second in the pool. They turned it on and never looked back as they won Vegas with ease. The photo to my left and below shows how much the final meant to the people of Fiji. Head coach Ben Ryan showed the kind of class that makes him so special with a fantastic tweet, see below.
Australia have gathered steam in the last two tournaments coming in second. They have secured they currently hold onto the the fourth spot. The Aussies played well to get to the cup semi-final. They need a bit of luck to make the final as a late mistake by South Africa opened the door and then their luck ran out against the Fijians. The Blitzbokke were undefeated until the cup semi-final and if not for that late mistake against Australia, they would have been in the final. They were able to bounce back from that and secure 3rd place.
New Zealand were up and down. They had a strong first day then were shockingly shut out by Kenya and followed that up with a loss to South Africa. They went on to be a get two wins on the third day and win the Plate. After a very poor set results on the first day, Wales were able to get on a roll and used it to win the Bowl… Samoa once again had a poor start to the tournament despite the big upset of Pacific Island rivals Fiji to start their tournament. They managed to least salvage their campaign and win the Shield as consolation for their perseverance.
Final standings were
Third: South Africa
Plate: New Zealand
Tough few weeks for all Fijians. Hope we put a smile on some faces this weekend. Much love. pic.twitter.com/zhJ6RqgeY6
— Ben Ryan Fiji 7s (@benjaminryan) March 7, 2016
The next leg will be in Vancouver, Canada this coming weekend. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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And remember to stay low and keep pumping those legs!