VANCOUVER, CANADA – The sixth leg of the 2016/2017 World Rugby HSBC Men’s Sevens Series is now complete. It was a hotly-contested leg, to be sure. The @Eagles7s had their best Day 1 ever and a impressive – but disappointing – Day 2. Meanwhile, England were able to stop South Africa and deny them a trophy for the second time.
@Eagles7s heart-stopping play:
In my tournament preview, we discussed the Eagles 7s possibly using the momentum from the 3rd place finish in Vegas to carry them far and they did use it on day 1. The USA started out Day 1 looking like a reigning World Championship side. They absolutely destroyed Japan in their match-up, dominating every aspect of play to win 52-0. Next up the Eagles took on France and their form didn’t dip one bit. The French attack was more dangerous than Japan but the USA defense was not phased and they remained assertive in attack, winning comfortably 31-19. With the second win, the USA qualified for the Cup quarterfinal but they still had one match left. In their third and final pool match, the USA faced Australia. It was a tough match but the USA was in the best form they had been since they won the London leg in 2015, taking it 29-5.
The knock-out stages in Vancouver were similar to Vegas. The Eagles drew Argentina again, in the quarterfinal match. As expected the match was tough and so intense that the USA left it till late to score and convert with little time left on the clock… The next match was against the Blitzbokke of South Africa. The USA are 19-14-1 this season on the circuit. Oddly enough, 6 of those losses have come against the Blitzbokke. This one was the most painful to date. Down by 4, with the hooter already having gone off, the USA was a meter from the SA tryline. Unfortunately, top-level professionals are fallible and the USA’s Andrew Durutalo caught a case of white line fever. The Big Fella tried to pick & go and dive over the tryline, rather than move it wide. He was held-up in-goal, giving SA the win 14-10.
After losing that instant classic of a match, the USA had to rebound and get ready for Fiji. The match was filled with great attacking play as the USA’s Perry Baker scored his 100th try of his 7s circuit career. However a crucial turnover toward the end by the USA led to a Fiji score which made the Eagles have to score two tries in under a minute and the USA was only able to score one as they lost 28-24.
The Blitzbokke have only failed to win two legs of this season’s circuit and those times they lost the final to England. In the knockout round, England barely survived the challenge from New Zealand then shocked on-lookers by demolishing Fiji. Having drawn with South Africa in pool play, the final was one a knife’s edge but England managed to comeback and secure the victory. For the South Africans, making the final all but secured them the Series title barring a collapse of epic proportions over the final 4 legs. They are without a doubt the best team in the competition this year.
As the ambassadors of beautiful 7s play, Fiji are a joy to watch in full flight. They were very much unlike themselves in the massive loss to England in the Semi-finals, however, but got back to their best against the USA in the 3rd place match… New Zealand continue to re-build and after their quarterfinal loss to England, they rebounded to beat Argentina for 5th place… The Challenge Trophy was a match between squads trying to get their grooves back, as Wales faced off against Samoa, with the Welsh winning a tight affair.
Second: South Africa
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.