VANCOUVER, CAN – All is quiet on the Western front once again. The weekend, However, was anything but quiet as the #Canada7s was busy becoming a roaring success. The @Eagles7s fought hard and well until they finally ran out of steam in the semi-final and finished fourth. For the rest of the world, Fiji became the first team in the 2017-2018 season to have a second series stop victory.
Fourth Places @Eagles7s:
In my Canada 7s preview, the optimist part of me viewed the @Eagles7s finishing fourth as a positive. However, now that they won fourth, it feels a little disappointing because they were so close to making the final. The preview also mentioned injuries and fatigue and like a clairvoyant, those also became an issue for the USA.
There are no easy games as the saying goes, but currently Team USA is on a whole other level than their first opponents of the day Uruguay. Uruguay being the first opponent allowed head coach Mike Friday to relax and execute a basic strategy with his bench. The regular first teams went out, started hot and stayed hot so that after the first half, Friday could empty the bench. It all went according to plan as the USA went up 33-0 before the starters came off and the bench went on to increase the margin of victory. Final score: 45-0 USA victory.
The second match of Day 1 would be against the Eagles oldest foe, Canada, in a match that was key to deciding the group. The thing about rivalry games is records and standings don’t mean a thing. The USA-Canada match proved that to be true as the Canadians got out to a fast 14-0 start. The USA then matched them so the sides were 14 all at the half. In the second half it was 21 all with a minute into injury time, it looked headed for a draw until the USA’s Kevon Williams snagged the ball deep in his own territory to run the length of the field and steal a victory. Final score: 28-21 to the USA.
The win meant the USA was through to the cup playoffs, so it was surprising that in the third game of the day against Australia, Coach Friday didn’t use his bench muc. The decision showed as the Aussies went to their bench later and over came an early 14-0 deficit to win. Final score: USA 21-31 Australia.
Day 2 came and the USA started out as good as can be hoped. The USA was drawn against #3 ranked New Zealand. The Kiwis aren’t as dominate as they once were, but still are a very dangerous side. The USA displayed its commitment to teamwork and defense in the match as they would bend but not break. The Kiwis held firm to keep the match scoreless at the half. The deadlock was finally broken through a bit of individual magic by Perry Baker and teamwork with the other speedster Carlin Isles as the pair showed of their track speed. The USA would keep the pressure on from there and result would be a big win and passage to the Cup semi-finals for the 3rd time in 4 legs. Final score: 17-0 to the USA.
In the semi-final the USA would start out fast and go up 14-0 before Kenya scored twice before the half ended to make it 14-12. The match would remain tied at 19-19 as the sides traded scores in the second half. Coach Friday was struggling with his line-up as he took off some guys for injury assessments and brought them back. Friday was operating a 9 man bench. The fatigue finally made a difference as towards the end the USA made a turnover from an arrant pass after a tackle, and Kenya went on to steal position and touch it down in the corner as the hooter sounded.
A gutted and painful display as the USA went down, final score 26-19 to Kenya.
With his stars exhausted and a 3rd place match that didn’t quite matter as match, USA head coach Mike Friday decided to give the youth a chance. It was a solid effort but it fell short of a SA side that was also not loading up their biggest weapons but their depth is on another level to the USA depth and this game showed as SA won 29-7.
Fiji Flying Again:
The World Rugby 7s series this year has been so unpredictable that a different team had won each leg until Vancouver. In this leg, Fiji became the first to have multiple leg victories. What made it sweeter for Fiji is they were in Pool C with Kenya who delivered them a shock loss after both sides defeated France and Spain. The loss seemed to inspire Fiji, who went on to trounce Argentina in the Cup quarterfinals, edge out South Africa in semi-finals and then exact revenge against Kenya for the title.
Kenya have seemed to hit their stride this season as they push on to finish above 6th (their highest in recent years). They upset Fiji, England and the USA to make the final. If this continues they will take the title at one of the remaining stops. In third place was South Africa, who have had to deal with losing 6 first teamers to Super Rugby and injury, but they managed to almost make the final and win it, such is their depth. England had a less than stellar tournament but did manage to at least win the Plate against Australia… Scotland finally had something to smile about as they fought off a relentless Spain for the Challenge Trophy.
Third: South Africa
That’s all for now, See you in Vancouver. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.