WELLINGTON, NZ – There are so many subplots that take place during an IRB 7s tournament, that it’s often hard to keep track. Whether it’s about team travel, roster questions, coaches under fire, the weather or the venue itself, one is never left for wanting a story. But in this leg of the HSBC 7s Series, the Wellington 7s, the first hours of the tourney narrowed it down to three big story-lines involving three countries:
England came into Wellington beaten up, mentally and physically. The calm and collected coach, Ben Ryan, had come under fire for an under-achieving squad. But the twist in Plot One came with the return from injury of last year’s HSBC points leader, Mathew Drew Turner and under-valued play-maker Christian Lewis-Pratt. But Ryan’s chargers would still be without the steady/unsung engine-room work of Chris “Crackers” Cracknell, who is still hurt. And the two returnees would no doubt be rusty… Or would they? Okay, no cliff-hanger here. All Turner did was come back to light up New Zealand for two tries and score 4 on the first day, while CLP managed to lead all scorers in Wellington with 51 points. Throw in some clever maneuvering by Coach Ryan, a tournament-saving tackle by Marcus Watson and fleet-footed scorer Dan Norton tackling – that’s right, tackling – anyone and everyone, and you have the most unlikely of endings.
Or do you?
Did we mention that Kenya was in final as well? That’s no typo – or wrong info off Twitter. The Kenyans came in and simply won the world over. Their passion, infectious smiles, humility and Tier 1 skills got them past everyone – including New Zealand in Wellington. That’s Plot 2. Let that soak in for a moment. These guys are for real. If not for the aforementioned Watson running down Collins Injera (who was outstanding and showed class and grace in defeat) in the waning moments for the final, we’d be talking about an entirely different ending. But that doesn’t mean that this finish still wasn’t crazy enough for even the most far-fetched of proposed Hollywood endings. Kenya beat New Zealand in New Zealand, folks. Think about that.
Finally, we get to our host nation and Plot 3… The All Blacks 7s squad is the only team on the planet that can be up by 20 points in the HSBC standings and still be under the gun. That’s how important rugby is to this nation of 4 million. Moreover, questions of age and his captaincy have been swirling around the courageous captain, the warrior that is D.J. Forbes. Now, we’re not on the sidelines for all the HSBC tournaments, but we’ve seen the man on the pitch up close and personal. This guy is still at the top of his game and would captain ANY TEAM out there, if playing for another were possible. He’s a player that the fans and critics will miss most when he’s no longer in there – and they may very well get a taste of that in Vegas, because Forbes was hurt. We don’t know the extent of the injury at this time. Fingers crossed that we’ll see him rambling in Vegas next weekend.
If you missed it you can watch on the web or on NBC in the USA later today. But let it be written: England vs Kenya Was One For The Ages.
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