HONG KONG, CHINA – The 2014/2015 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series will go down as the one of the competitive seasons in the history of the series. The 7th leg in Hong Kong was filled with dramatic matches, unlikely results, and incredible play. Once again, the USA surprised pundits and topped their pool. The knockout stage lead to another Fiji title win that made it just 3 points between first and third place.
USA Finishes 6th:
The @Eagles7s had a mixed tournament. They set a new standard for themselves by making their fourth straight Cup playoffs. From that high they came down to a rocky knockout round performance culminating in a Plate final loss. The USA got a very tough opening match draw against Kenya. After allowing the 90% of the possession and a 14 point lead to the Kenyans, they came back to win. The USA finally woke up in the second half, galvanized by a brilliant solo try by Maka Unufe. They then got 3 key 50/50 calls in their favor including a tackled player not releasing call that ended the game , 21-14.
Following that win, the USA crushed Wales and won comfortably, 41-12. The greatest Eagles 7s player of all-time, yup we are saying it now, Zach Test, scored a hat-trick as the Eagles started out like a house on fire and never let up, the whole match. The win put the USA in a great position as they were now assured of progressing to the cup round for the fourth straight tournament. The USA just needed to win or draw their next match against England to top the pool. The USA failed to beat a top 5 team again but they looked up for the fight and were able to show resilience in the face of adversity. They came back from being down and then with England having a 1 man advantage in the final minute of the game, the USA defense held on, to draw 19-19. The draw also cost the Eagles Folau Niua for 6 matches after he was cited in the match. Niua is ineligible to play for the USA until the knock-out round in Tokyo.
Day 2 for the Eagles was filled with frustration. They took on Samoa in the Cup quarterfinal game and if you remember our preview, we mentioned how unpredictable Samoa because no one knows if the good version or the bad version will show up. Unfortunately for the Eagles it was the good version and they were knocked out of the cup by a score of 26-15. There was no time for the USA to feel sorry for itself as it had a crucial plate semi-final against Argentina. Argentina sit in 6th and the USA sit in 7th place in the world standings, separated by a mere 3 points. If the USA hoped to overtake them they had to win this match-up. Despite digging themselves a hole and letting the Argies score first, they Eagles overcame that challenge and went on to dominate, to win 28-14.
After that big win, it was time for the Eagles to attempt to take another top 5 scalp as the faced Australia in the Plate final. As they did in their first match of the tournament, the USA didn’t come out sharp and Australia dominated the first half. The Eagles then woke up and asked questions of the Aussie defense. Despite the valiant effort, the Eagles came up 15 meters shy of the Aussie try-line, with the game in the balance, as a pass to hand missed and went into touch. The USA fell short 21-17, ending their Hong Kong adventure.
Now to the winners…
The High Flying Fijians:
The Flying Fijians 7s side defeated all-comers in route to their second consecutive tournament win of the 2014/15 series. Under the leadership of Englishman Ben Ryan , who celebrates his first-ever Hong Kong title, the Fijians have worked extra hard on their defensive structure and shape and it is starting to pay dividends. They controlled their cup final match against a New Zealand All Black 7s side boasted by the return of Tim Mikkelson and captain DJ Forbes. The dominance of their win shocked some as they fought tooth and nail to get past England and South Africa in Cup quarterfinal and semi-final respectively. They stayed together as a team and trusted the system which lead to their victory. It has always been feared by the rest of the nations that Fiji would become unstoppable if they developed the game management and defensive structure to match their potent attack. Under Ryan that day is seemingly on the horizon.
South Africa remains first in the overall standings and they were able to dobso despite a poor knock out round. The Blitzbokke were dominant in pool play but in the Cup quarterfinal against Australia, they were lucky to get out alive. They then fell to Fiji before bouncing back to knock off Samoa in the 3rd place match. Australia had a good tournament despite two losses. They only lost to their SANZAR counterparts, South Africa and New Zealand. They managed to win the Plate and hold onto their 4th place position in the overall standings.
Scotland continue their steady improvement. They looked dominate against a French side, that had been playing well, in the Bowl final. The Scotland worked hard to dominate the point of contact at the breakdown which allowed them to send it wide and win with ease. Kenya refuse to let their struggles in pool and knockout play overshadow their effort. They managed to at least salvage their campaign and win the shield.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Russia to the Sevens World Series. The Russians, as predicted, won the 12 team qualifier for core status. Meaning the bottom placed team of this season’s series will be relegated to non-core status to make way for Russia. It took a might effort by Russia as Zimbabwe followed their shock upset of Spain with a quality performance. The Bears scored a try after the hooter had sounded to win the final and a seat at the big boys table.
Final standings were
Second: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
The next leg will be in Tokyo, Japan this upcoming weekend. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.