DUBAI, UAE – From an American perspective, school was in session and there was plenty of learning to do. For everyone involved, this was another lesson on just how good the SANZAR countries South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, and Pacific Island nations, Fiji and Samoa are, compared to the rest of the world.
American Learning Curve:
The Eagle Men and Women 7s sides had decent tournaments. From a distance, they didn’t perform badly . However, from an up-close coach’s view, their performance was frustrating. The Women had a good first day. They weren’t at their sharpest in their first game against Russia but they grinded out a victory 17-12. This was followed by a hard fought tight loss of 24-19 to powerhouse New Zealand. They showed their class and reminded the USA that you cannot lose focus for even a split second against the best in the world. The Women finished day 1 by setting a new record on the Women’s 7s series by crushing China 61-0. On Day 2, the Women came out sluggish and were thoroughly outplayed by top 4 Canada, 36-0. This was yet another lesson of having your head on straight before you take on a big-time opponent. Against Fiji, the USA Women seemed unable to put pressure on a side that seemed rudderless with the ball at times. In the end, they could not close them out amd lost 24-21. The USA finally got back to the winning side by defeating Russia for a second time, 22-20. In our preview, we mentioned the Women’s team has gotten more athletic and dynamic by adding more crossover athletes but they seem to lack rugby IQ and focus in key moments. Hopefully they’ll learn from it.
The Eagle Men struggled mightily with a slow start and won only two games over the two days. The tournament started out against traditional powerhouse England. The USA played respectably but when you play England – respectably is not enough. The Eagles lost 19-10. In their next match, they came up against an on-fire Australia side and lost 26-10. The Men finally got a win against head coach Mike Friday’s old side, Kenya. They won 26-17 by finally playing like cohesive a team. This includes support runners and application of good defensive pressure. On Day 2, the Eagles didn’t start as fresh and they barely defeated Japan in a very tight match that ended 14-12. They then ran into a France side that was finding some form and lost 24-15. Hopefully, the Men will head back into their team meetings with a clear understanding of what is needed to improve.
Southern Hemisphere Domination:
In the Women’s World Series there were 4 teams that you can always count on to be in the hunt for the title:New Zealand, Australia, Canada and England. It is no coincidence that these are also the most well-funded programs in Women’s 7s.
In Dubai, the Kiwis and Aussies did not lose a single game up until the final. In that final, New Zealand won on a stunning post-hooter try to the end the game.
England started the tournament well and won their group including a win against Canada. They had a shock loss to the French in the cup quarterfinals, causing them to fall into the Plate bracket, which they won. Meanwhile, Canada stayed on strong and finished third as they bounced back from the England loss. They lost again in the Cup semi-finals to Australia. Impressive showings by smaller Southern Hemisphere nations like Fiji and Brazil meant that this was a great tournament – if your country resided south of the equator.
Final standings were
Cup: New Zealand
They may not be panicking in the land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand), however there is growing dismay and shock in their performance in the HSBC 7s World Series so far. For the second straight tournament, New Zealand was not in the final. Even more shocking was their Cup semi-final match against Australia – where they were blanked 28-0. Our research interns have yet to get back to us about when was the last time Sir Gordon Tietjen’s men failed to score in a match. Beyond those two shockers, the Kiwis lost to Fiji in the third place game.
While the Kiwis were struggling, their fellow SANZAR buddies Australia and South Africa were in unstoppable form. They met in the final with a win for South Africa. The southern hemisphere’s good vibes continued as Argentina (who will eventually join SANZAR) overcame some inconsistencies to win the Plate. The team that was second in the overall standings going into this tournament was Samoa. Though they didn’t have a brilliant tournament, they still walked away with the Bowl. Canada was the lone country from north of the equator to win anything as they took the Shield.
Final standings will be
Cup: South Africa
The next leg will be fast upon us in South Africa this upcoming weekend. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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