LONDON, UK – The 2016/2017 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series is officially over. The Blitzbokke of South Africa, were the champions going into the final leg so everyone else was playing for pride or a better position in the standings. In the actual tournament, Scotland ran the table to win the London leg for a second straight year, while the @Eagles7s played well but slumped to a fourth place finish.
USA Finishes 4th:
The @Eagles7s had a disappointing tournament. Yes, they made the cup playoffs for the 7th straight tournament and finished in the top 5 in those tournament, 6 of them being between 2nd-4th. They finished in 5th place in the overall standings, their highest finish ever, but yes London was still disappointing.
Day 1 started with the USA playing Wales in the opener. The USA beat Wales in the group stage in Paris, but this time the Welsh failed to read the script. In the match, the USA came out flat and met a Wales side that was not going to back down. Through an intense first half, the sides traded tries and finished the half tied at 2 a piece, and the USA holding a 2 to 1 conversions edge. A key turning point in the half occurred when Martin Iosefo, made a break and crossed the tryline but stopped running and didn’t see the the chasing Wales defender, you hit him from the back and knocked the ball out, denying the USA a try. Perry Baker would later score in the half but that mistake would foreshadow the USA’s issues all weekend. In the second half, Iosefo would be caught flat footed and rounded by a Welsh attacker for the go-ahead try. Wales would then add another try to see the Eagles off, 28-12. In the second match of the day, the USA shook off the cobwebs and came out angry. It appears that head coach Mike Friday must have thrown some garbage cans around as the Eagles came out and unleashed their fury on Kenya as they won all aspects of the match and secured a dominating 47-0 win. The big win gave the USA a very high positive points difference so going into their third match against their bogey team and series champions, South Africa, the USA needed an improbable victory or the more probable narrow loss. The USA chose the improbable route by putting on dominant display as they never trailed throughout the match, led or tied, all the way through to a 24-12 victory.
Day 2 for the Eagles started out good but ended up disappointing. They drew Australia in the Cup quarterfinal match, a side that the USA has had mixed results against all series. The match was expected to be a close seesaw battle but it didn’t actually become that. The USA started the first half on fire before conceding a try to end the first half. The USA started the second half in the same manner and the USA cruised to a dominant 31-14 win.
In our #London7s preview, we discussed that the need for the USA to avoid the crucial mistake in order to win the big games. Unfortunately in the USA’s semi-final game against Scotland, we were proved right. The Scots had just had a major comeback victory against New Zealand, so they were flying high. The match started out tight as the team traded tries, then midway through the second Folau Nuia was put into space in the left corner of the in-goal and rather than slide 2 yards out and let his momentum help him secure a score, Nuia went for a big fend of the Scotland defender. The Scottish defender shrugged it off and knocked the ball out of Nuia’s hand before the USA fly-half could touch it down, keeping the score 7-7. The Scots would take advantage and eventually score, forcing the USA to score late to tie it. The ensuing restart fell to the Scots and the USA defense was penalized on a bad call by the ref. The bad call led to Scotland kicking for touch and winning the line-out to be inside the USA 22. As the Scots pushed on with no time on the clock, USA captain Madison Hughes knocked the ball down and backwards. Unfortunately for the USA, the Scots reacted quicker to the knock down and scored to win the game. Three separate crucial moments, an inexcusably bad decision, a big call and an fortuitous bounce leading to the USA losing. Only Nuia’s mistake could have been avoided, the other two were pure bad luck, it is just that, it is these game-turning moments that have denied the USA a Cup victory all series.
After that painful loss, the USA had to get its act together to face their old rivals, Canada. It was a rematch of the Singapore 7s final, but this time for 3rd Place in London, however it was the same result. In a tight affair, the USA let in the first score and the Canadians refused to relinquish the lead. The Canucks kept holding off the USA to secure a 22-19 victory.
The Scotland 7s side seem to save their best for last. Last season they came on strong towards the end and punctuated their season by winning in London. This season they made the final in Paris and now have won London. What makes this odder is this European leg dominance in sevens, the last two season were after the Scotland leg was removed from the tour. It appears it has given the 7s team for the country that created 7s, a point to prove. The Scots secured their place in the quarterfinals early on with a dominating victory over Russia, a narrow win against Argentina but were upset in the final game of day 1 by France. They returned the upset favor by staging a miracle comeback win against the All Black 7s after being down 21-0. They then had their fortuitous win against the USA as mentioned. In the final, they faced the old enemy, England in Twickenham. It should have been England’s swansong and win on paper, however the Scots won a tight low scoring match 12-7 to win the Cup in London for a second successive series.
England went undefeated on day 1 and topped their group as we all expected. In the Cup playoffs they disposed of a very tough Springbok side in a tough contest, then Canada with relative ease. They then met Scotland in the final, their only loss of the weekend. In the lead up to their victory over the USA for third place, Canada kicked the tournament off with upset of Fiji, then lost to New Zealand, leaving them to thoroughly dispatch Japan to make the Cup quarterfinals. The Canadians easily dispatch Argentina before running into the buzz-saw that was England. The win over the USA capped off their best ever series.
After their loss to the USA to end day one and loss to England to start day 2, the Blitzbokke got their act together and defeated Argentina and Australia to win 5th place. After falling short of making the Cup playoffs, Fiji, finally found their groove and easily cruised the to win the Challenge Trophy, defeating Wales. At the other end of the table, Japan had a winless day one and it was enough to confirm that they were to be relegated from the 2017/2018 version of the series.
Final standings were
Fifth: South Africa
Challenge Trophy: Fiji
If you missed any of the matches, my advice to you is that YouTube is your friend.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.