SINGAPORE – The 2015/2016 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series has now become a historic one. Its now joins the 2014/2015 Series as circuits that witness a first time tournament win for a nation. In addition to all of this, the 8th leg in Singapore witnessed some great matches, upsets, intense finishes, and fantastic play. Unfortunately for USA fans it was not as much fun as the Americans performance left a lot to be desired. Globally, Kenya had their first Cup win in 114 tournaments but Fiji also moved a step closer to second consecutive Series win.
USA Finishes 8th:
The @Eagles7s had a poor tournament. Their cup playoff qualification streak ends at 9 straight tournaments. The Eagles were poor on Day 1 and improved on Day 2 but despite the improvement on day 2 they finished with a Bowl final loss. The USA got off to a very good start in their opening match against Canada. Against their long time rivals, the USA started out like a house on fire as the Americans scored fast, early and often. By the time Canada got on the board in the second half, the USA had a 31 point cushion. The final score was 36-14.
Following that win, the USA was next asked to line-up against France. The Eagles were the favorites but France appeared to have found their swagger from earlier in the series. After poor performances that past 4 tournaments or so, France announced their return by shutting out New Zealand in their first game. The USA and France went into the half tied at a try a piece. France then scored two converted tries in the second half before a USA comeback. Though the USA scored two tries of their own, the placement turned out to be the issue as only one of the two were converted. The USA comeback ran out of time and France won, 19-17. This meant that the USA would know be in a nightmare scenario of having to beat the All Black 7s in order to make the Cup playoffs. Though the odds were stacked against them, the USA did put up a fight. The first half saw New Zealand score 19 unanswered points as the big game jitters seemed to be back for the USA. The USA woke up in the second half and shut down the Kiwi attack while igniting their own attack. Unfortunately they had dug themselves too deep of a hole and lost 19-12.
Day 2 for the Eagles was good but not great. They took on Russia in the Bowl quarterfinal game and they played like they had found themselves again. The team from the Canada game was back and the USA won going away, 24-5. The USA got a chance to follow up that feel good win with another in the Bowl semi-final against Portugal. The USA has not lost to Portugal this year and was not about to start now. The USA put in a complete performance and shutdown the Portuguese to cruise to a 26-0 victory. After that promising win, it felt like the Eagles were out to atone for the poor day one, with a dominant day 2, unfortunately for Eagles fans that wasn’t the case. The USA got involved in dogfight with Scotland and just like the match with the French, conversions were the difference. The USA matched on tries at two a piece, however, the Scotland tries were in better kicking position and/or their kicker was kicking better that day as they converted their two tries while the USA didn’t, so the Eagles fell short 14-10, ending their Singapore adventure.
If you follow us on Twitter, and you should, you will notice a discussion between myself and DJ Coil. I reminded him of how we discussed second leg fatigue and winning against the top tier sides in the Singapore 7s preview. He noted the 9 consecutive cup playoffs as a positive and that we should keep faith with the program. I don’t disagree but this is process for the USA and it is going to take at least another year maybe two depending on post Rio. I have faith in Coach Mike Friday and the work that he is doing but this process takes time and we have to recognize it but we still can be disappointed and upset. Because of the new standards set by the Eagles in the past year, I have to say that this performance was poor and not good enough. Winning when you are tired and struggling is what needs to happen if the program is to move forward and this past weekend shows they are not there.
Those Incredible Kenyans:
The Kenyans 7s program has been a conundrum for the past few seasons. The players have excelled in spite of the backroom politics between the Kenyan Rugby Union, the Ministry of Sport in Kenya and clashes of egos. The success they had under current USA coach Mike Friday was erased when he was unceremoniously dumped as a victim of a power play. Then some absurd PED charges we thrown at him, which came to nothing. Friday was then replaced by Paul Treu, who stepped down as South Africa coach to take the position. Treu quit before the 2014/2015 series was over because of too much interference. Similar PED charges were laid at Treu and though his found their way to World Rugby offices, they were dismissed with prejudice as Kenya finished 13th last season. This season with some more stability there have been some improved performances. The peak of this came this weekend after a poor day one where they finished 1-1-1 and barely made it into the Cup playoffs they turned it on in day 2. They beat fellow upstarts France and Argentina before drawing big dogs Fiji in the final. The Kenyans blew the doors of the match and dominated Fiji to win 30-7 and their first ever tournament Cup.
Fiji remains first in the overall standings and they were probably spent by their efforts to make the final. With some big guns rested for this leg Fiji managed to battle past Australia in the quarters and win at the death against South Africa. They had nothing left in the tank for the final and it showed. The South African Blitzbokke dusted themselves off after losing the heartbreaker to Fiji, the Blitzbokke bounced back to defeat Argentina and win third.
New Zealand are finding their hopes of winning this year’s series slimmer and slimmer. They struggled to get out of pool play and were quickly dumped by South Africa in the plate bracket. There they ran into Samoa in the final and the amateurs of Samoa beat the pros of New Zealand in the Plate final. Scotland lost out on making the Cup playoffs on points difference to Kenya. They then turned it on and beat all comers in the Bowl playoffs including the USA in the final to win the Bowl. If Russia is looking for a positive in their first year as a core team, they can highlight their 3 consecutive Shield wins. Small achievements like this are big for a developing program.
Final standings were
Third: South Africa
The next leg will be in Paris. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
That is it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Ronan Nelson, Kyle Phillips and Declan Yeats, respectively
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.