DUBAI, UAE – The first tournament of the 2017/2018 Mens Sevens World Series had its up and down moments but all in all it was good fun. The @Eagles7s, had lots of downs and very few ups. They had their worst tournament ever under head coach Mike Friday. For the rest of the world, South Africa let it be known that last year was not a fluke and they are not slowing down.
The Eagles 7s have always started slow in Dubai, but never so poor they came in dead last or tied for dead last. The side was dealt a huge blow when reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, Perry Baker, was knocked out of the tournament with a concussion. Per concussion protocols, Baker has to take at least a week off, meaning he would be out of practice all week and he is questionable to play this weekend in the South Africa leg. The loss of Baker was felt in the USA attack as they only scored more than 2 tries in only one match. On day 1, the theme for the day was not making the most of attacking opportunities and not closing down the opposition in defense. The USA scored 14, 14 and 12 as they lost to Argentina by 8, Samoa by 12 and New Zealand by 10.
Day Two began with the USA hoping they could at least win the Challenge trophy and finish the tournament on a positive note. Unfortunately that would not be the case for the weekend. To start off, the USA were doubled up by their oldest foe Canada 10-5. That loss dropped the USA into the 13th place playoff semi-final match against Wales. The USA finally managed to score more than two tries as they racked up 21 points. Unfortunately, the defense was not as tight as it needed to be and Wales scored 31 points. The USA had bombed out and it was only points difference that allowed them to finish 15th and not dead last in 16th but they were tied with 1 series standings point for this leg.
The USA will have to do some soul searching to bounce back. This is a tough unit that has overcome challenges and this is their latest one. Knowing Mike Friday, he will take this bad tournament personally and push the team. They will bounce back, this I am confident off.
Blitzboks Reign Again:
It was a change for the Blitzbok starting this season. This time out they weren’t out for respect or to bury ghosts, they were the prey. After finally winning their first title as circuit champions, it was time to do it again. They went out in Dubai and played with the same fire as they had last season. No opponent that faced them managed to score more than 12 points as they dominated in offense and defense. Their performance undoubtedly put every team on notice.
Unfazed by the Blitzbok performance were New Zealand. Although they came up short in the Cup Final, they looked very impressive in all of their 5 wins and proving that they have reloaded for the new season. The scary part was that the kiwis were well stocked to begin with. In third place, was England which is where they usually finish. They are almost always a good bet to make the semi-finals then it is one play or instance that they switch off and lose and end up in 3rd place.
Australia also looked well in pool play even in their loss to Fiji and outside of the cup playoff lost to England, they went on to claim 5th place. France bounced back for not making the cup playoffs to win the Challenge Trophy. The winner of 13th place was a rebuilding Wales side.
Final standings will be
Cup: South Africa
Second: New Zealand
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.