PARIS, FRANCE – The tenth and final leg of the 2017/2018 Mens Sevens World Series is finally over. The @Eagles7s had an up and down tournament and finished sixth. For the rest of the world, South Africa seized an opportunity to win the tournament and the whole series. Let’s review:
Americans finish sixth:
The Eagles injury bug seemed to continue as Danny Barrett was lost over the course of the tournament which did hurt them. However, they did have a great first day and an ok second day to finish sixth in the tournament and series, which all things considered is an incredible feat.
The USA had a solid start to this leg in their first game against Argentina. The Argentines had been a thorn in the USA’s side over the tour but in the last two tournaments, it seems the USA might have them figured out. It was the same again in this tournament as the USA came out more intense and scored two tries in the first half to go in 12-0. The USA didn’t drop in intensity either as the second half kicked off and with smothering defense and relentless attack they USA scored two more times before Argentina scored a consolation try as the USA won 26-7. Next up for the USA were tournament hosts France. This time the USA got off to a slower start in the first half and France scored first. However, the USA got their act together to score two converted tries in the first half and go into halftime up, 14-7. In the second half, it was the USA that asserted itself by scoring two more tries to France’s one to wrap up the game and guarantee progression to the cup playoffs by a final score of 26-12. The final opponents for the day for the USA was England. It was another exciting match as the teams went toe to toe. To start the match off, the two sides traded converted tries before England scored one more time head into halftime. In the second half, England led off with a score and seemed to be ready to cruise to a victory. However, it was not to be as the USA fought back with two unanswered converted tries to tie the game at 21. The two sides would finish at a stalemate of 21-21.
The Eagles seemed set for to build on their day one success for a success on the second day. First, head coach Mike Friday, announced that Danny Barrett, had taken a knock and as precaution would be rested for the remainder of the tournament and was to be replaced by the rookie Faitala Talapusi. Then the USA ran into the always tough All Black 7s. It is tough to put a finger on what went wrong out there but the two things that stood out were the Kiwi defense and putting numbers in the counter ruck. It was those two facets of the game that led to a big win for New Zealand. New Zealand led 21-7 at the half and won 33-7. After that painful loss, the USA now faced Spain in the 5th place semi-final match. The USA started out slow in the Spain match on attack but the defense held so the two sides went into halftime tied 7-7. Head coach Mike Friday, ripped into his team in his halftime speech and it made a difference. The USA scored 3 unanswered tries to win the game 28-7 and was now in the fifth place final and their opponent would be Fiji. Fiji had stumbled against England in the Cup playoff quarterfinal. The Fijians had to win 5th place to have any chance of winning the series, the Eagles had lost Danny Barrett and Captain Madison Hughes to precaution, Malon Al-Jiboori to a pulled hamstring and Faitala Talapusi to a shoulder injury. Forced to play with 9 men, the USA fought valiantly but couldn’t stop the Fijians from completing a 28-7 victory.
Unbelievable South African Blitzbokke:
Fiji had gone undefeated in 4 straight tournaments, a combined total of 25 straight matches if you count when the streak started and ended. However, in Paris they lost twice in two days. The first loss Kenya was that bad but the second loss to England dealt a crushing blow to their hopes of winning the series. The loss to England opened the door for South Africa to win it all. The Blitzbokke didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. They almost lost to Spain, having to win in extra time but they did what they had to do win the tournament while Fiji finished fifth.
Though they loss in the Cup Final, England looked very impressive in their wins of Fiji and New Zealand. Those are big wins and likely after winning those two they didn’t have much left in the tank for the Blitzbokke. In third place, was New Zealand, who showed that their re-build/re-load is almost over and they are gonna be even more dangerous next year as they defeated Canada for third. We know Fiji claimed fifth place, and finally in the Challenge Trophy, Argentina went undefeated to claim the trophy.
Cup: South Africa
Third: New Zealand
We said it would take an epic collapse for South Africa to win it and it happened. In retrospect, it wasn’t epic, it was just not making the semi-final in Paris. South Africa didn’t win as many legs as Fiji, however their consistency was unmatched on the circuit this year. South Africa never finished worse than fourth so they were always in the running. Meanwhile Fiji did have a couple of poor tournaments and that was the difference. Oddly South Africa loses some of their sevens players after the first 2-4 legs due to Super rugby duty. So guys like Kwagga Smith and Seabelo Senatla play the first couple of legs and then come back for the last one or two if they are not selected for Springbok duty. The depth of the team showed as they never dropped below fourth but the won the first and last leg, so maybe there is something to the whole process. New Zealand locked up third while Australia finished fourth which is respectable for Aus, but NZ fans will demand they win it all like they use to. With their performance in Paris, England leapfrogged USA to claim fifth. The USA in sixth after the injury raveled season they had, is a positive.
First: South Africa
Second: South Africa
Third: New Zealand
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