SINGAPORE – The World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series was once again thrown for loop at the Singapore stop. In the tournament’s 2016 iteration we witnessed Kenya win their first ever cup and this year it was Canada‘s turn. As big a technical win as it was for Canada it was a great final and, in the end, was extra sweet for the Canadians because they upset their neighbor and rival, the USA.
USA Finishes 2nd:
The @Eagles7s had a fantastic tournament. They reached their first cup final of the season and made the cup playoffs for the 5th straight tournament. In the process they closed the gap on the 4 teams above them in the overall standings while also opening up their lead on the one team chasing them for 5th, Australia. The USA started out the weekend by winning comfortably against Wales. As would be the theme over the weekend, the USA played a quality ball-control attack and continued to lead all teams in claiming kickoffs. They showed this against Wales as they managed to dominate possession and score some well executed tries in a 35-19 win.
Following that win, Mike Friday’s squad was up against Scotland. The Scots have a history of playing the USA close, and this match was close yet again. So close in fact that it was tied at the half 12-12. It would take some individual magic from the Eagles attack to see them through as they were able to win the shootout 33-26 and book a place in the Cup quarterfinals.
Next, the USA had to take on the formidable All Black 7s of New Zealand. The Eagles had star player Perry Baker out of that game with an injury, so it had to be a comprehensive team effort to win. The Eagles didn’t win, but they also didn’t look bereft of ideas or identity without their most dangerous player. New Zealand played well, but their performance eventually came down to a bad pass here or there, or to a missed tackle. Their mistakes, however, were not so substantial as to put victory out of reach, the scoreboard highlighting the close matchup as the Kiwis won 21-14.
Day 2 for the Eagles came within a whisker of being the greatest day 2 ever for the team. The USA shocked a lot of on-lookers as they defeated Fiji in the cup quarterfinal match. The Eagles aforementioned ball possession-based game plan and their series leading ability to claim restarts proved to be huge. The Eagles made 55 passes to Fiji’s 10 and only had to attempt 3 tackles all game. Despite all of that they didn’t steamroll Fiji as the Flying Fijians don’t need an incredible amount of ball possession to make a break and score a try. The USA was able to build up a lead and keep the ball away enough to hold on to win 24-19. After that big upset it was time for the USA to face Australia. The Aussies had been chasing the USA for the 5th place spot, but this time the USA sent them a message. It was a complete and dominant performance, the USA’s best of the weekend. After letting the Aussie’s draw first blood, the Eagles scored 40 unanswered points to win, 40-7.
The Cup final would witness a North American takeover as the USA played Canada in a thriller. The Canadians came out on fire as they went up 19-0 in the first half. The USA scored two tries to close out the half and make it 19-12. The Eagles came out and scored after the break to make it 19-19 and a nailbaiter the rest of the way. The USA had what appeared to be a go ahead try but it was held-up in the in-goal. A loose pass off the ensuing scrum led to a turnover and Canada went on a attack. As they drove down the field, a loose pass from the Canadians led to a broken play that eventually fell into Canadian hands and a scramble to the in-goal for the game leading try. From there, Canada held out on defense to secure the cup by a final score of 26-19.
The Champion Canucks:
The Canada 7s side has been improving this season under new coach Damien McGrath. They have gone from strength to strength and have made more cup playoffs than any previous season, notably earning a trip to semi-finals in Wellington earlier this season. In Singapore it all came together as they showed more moxie and focus than they had previously. They won their first two pool games but were beaten badly by Fiji in their final pool game. They showed their mettle on day two as they upset both New Zealand and England with strong performances that had on-lookers slack-jawed. They then dug deep to find a way to beat the Eagles and achieve their first ever cup title.
England have been a bit a erratic this season. They have made most cup quarterfinals, but not all. In the Singapore Cup quarterfinals they needed every bit of luck and fortune to squeeze by Kenya before falling to Canada in the semi-final. They bounced back to defeat the Aussies in a tense fourth place match courtesy of successful conversions on both of their tries (the Aussies converted on only one). Australia were undefeated in pool play, including a narrow victory against England to top the pool.
New Zealand were much like last week and struggled to find themselves. After years of getting the right mix of golden generation players and a coach in his prime, the team has since struggled to be a dangerous as they were. They were able to knock off an out of form, series leading South Africa side to win to claim 5th place.
After falling short of making the Cup playoffs, Wales found some rhythm and form and went all the way to win the Challenge Trophy, defeating Scotland.
Final standings were
Fifth: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: Wales
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