LAS VEGAS, USA – The desert sun has risen and set a few times since the wild Vegas 7s wrapped up. History was made, as the home team @Eagles7s went undefeated showing heart, resiliency, depth and ruthlessness to walk away winners. For the rest of the world, it was a tournament where the second tier made spectacular and serious gains to keep pressure on the top tier powers. Let’s review:
Eagles Soar in the Desert:
My Las Vegas 7s preview discussed the fact that playing at home could and should be a huge motivating factor for the @Eagles7s. That and the fact that this leg was spread to 3 days instead of two, which seems to benefit the Eagles.
For once, Team USA didn’t started slowly in their first game, against Manu Samoa. The Eagles drew first blood against the Samoans but then the islanders answered with a try of their own before the Eagles began to take a stranglehold of the match. That’s when they reeled off 19 unanswered points before Samoa scored a consolation try at the death. Final score: 26-12 to the USA… In their next match, the Americans would face Australia, who is fast becoming a big rival. In the match, the USA used their ability to win kick-offs and a ball-possession game to limit Australia’s possession for the majority of the first half. This lead to a 21-0 halftime lead for the USA, which would become the margin of victory as the teams fought the second half to a 7 all stalemate, giving the USA a 28-7 victory.
Day 2 came off the two Friday night wins which meant that they were already through to the knock out round. This meant Coach Mike Friday could afford to mix up the line-up a bit. Friday opted to start Joe Schroeder and Cody Melphy. This decision may have affected performance in a good and bad way in the first half. The USA scored two converted tries instantly, but gave up two tries just as fast, as the Spaniards showed were not going away quietly. The Eagles managed one more try before the halftime whistle, however, to lead 21-12… The second half started with Maka Unufe, Perry Baker, and Danny Barrett each earning rest. Stepping in were Malon Aljiboori, Martin Iosefo, and Carlin Isles. Still, Captain Ben Pinkelman and Folau Niua remained in the match. Despite the flurry of changes the USA was able to expand their lead as Isles raced away for a try to seal the game. Spain managed a consolation try to end the game 28-17… The second match of the day for the Eagles saw them take on England in the Cup quarterfinal. Things started off a little cagey, as the referee sought to police the breakdown and players staying on their feet. Both teams were called for the same infraction on back-to-back attacks and 3 times each in the first half. The USA drew first blood, courtesy of a spectacular turnover by Pinkelman leading to a Baker try. They got another try and were up 12-0 until a penalty led to an England try just before half… The second half started with the two sides trading tries. With England down a unconverted try with 3 minutes to go, it was squeaky bum time for USA fans. Courtesy of some great defense, great patience and a lucky bounce of a grubber going to USA hands instead of English hands, the Eagles held on to win 17-12.
In the third and final day, the USA had to defeat Fiji to make the Cup Final. This game produced one the greatest games you will ever see a 7s player play. Perry Baker left no doubt of his importance to the USA and to 7s worldwide, with his display. It started on defense when Fiji’s Alasio Sovita Naduva turned on the jets after receiving a pass inside his own 22. Naduva was clocked at doing 36Kmph or 22mph as he hit top speed aftr getting around Baker, but Baker didn’t give up and was clocked at 37kmph or 23mph to track him down just 10 meters short of the USA tryline, dragging him into touch. The USA managed to make a more even-handed fight of it before Fiji deftly slipped through a try to end the half… The USA got a scrum off a Fiji knock-on to start the 2nd half and with intense Fijian defensive pressure, the ball got to Baker in a hopeless position. He was a meter outside his own in-goal. However, Baker went on to score one of the greatest individual tries in 7s history (see below). From there the USA started to apply pressure in attack and defense and got near the Fiji tryline to force an intentional knock-on and a yellow card. The card allowed the USA to score a try to increase the lead and then with Fiji now down a man and chasing the game, Baker was there to score in the corner again. Fiji tried to get a consolation score but to no luck, final score USA 19, Fiji 7. The result sent the USA to its fourth-ever final and first on home soil.
With an upset in the other semi-final, the USA was set to face Argentina for title instead of South Africa. The Eagles were going to be without Joe Schroeder, who got hurt in the Spain game and Make Unufe, who got hurt at the end of the Fiji battle… It was another match that started with both sides a little too anxious. The USA finally opened the scoring midway through the first half, courtesy of Baker. Baker would take part in the second try as he beat tacklers and drew defenders before finding Danny Barrett to go under the posts. The USA would end the half up 14-0 and would increase it in the second half courtesy of a brilliant run by Pinkelman to find Barrett for the score. To put the icing on the cake and seal the win, Carlin Isles came on and ran around an Argentine defender to finish the game and give the USA a 28-0 win.
The Rest of the World:
This is the part when I normally talk about how the other teams did and the tournament winner. Not necessary as the USA took it home. It is also why the USA section is longer that usual. However, let’s discuss how the rest of the world fared.
Argentina have made some serious strides this season and are pushing to become the best of the second tier and maybe break into the top 4. They showed it with how they beat Scotland, New Zealand and South Africa on their way to making the final… In third place was Fiji, who had an up and down tournament, losing to Kenya in pool play and the USA in the Cup Semi-final, before defeating South Africa for third place… New Zealand had a poor tournament by their standards but salvaged the Plate against Australia… France had to dig deep to fight off Canada for the Challenge Trophy.
Plate: New Zealand
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.