HONG KONG, CHINA – The 2017/2018 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series is creating a very unique horse race. This edition of the series sees two separate ongoing horse races occurring. South Africa and Fiji are in a very tight battle for the title while the battle for 4th place has four teams separated by seven points going at it. The 7th leg in Hong Kong had a little bit of everything. From tense matches, upsets, dramatic finishes, and incredible displays of individual brilliance. The USA is making a habit of topping their pool but got worn down in the Cup playoffs while Fiji continued their push for the overall crown with by celebrating a second consecutive series and a fourth straight #HK7s leg victory.
USA Finishes 6th:
The @Eagles7s had a very good tournament. They have now qualified for the cup playoffs in three straight tournaments since falling short in Hamilton. The USA continues to fall short in the Cup semi-finals and settled for a 6th place finish. The USA drew against France and were just lucky to get by with that. The start of the match had USA fans shaking their head as nothing seemed to work. Passes not sticking, losing rucks, and no communication in defense led to a 12-5 halftime lead for France. The first half of the second half (stay with me now) was equally ugly as the USA could not find a space in attack and went down 24-5. With 2:30 left on the clock, Stephen Tomasin came on as a sub, and though he didn’t score, something finally clicked in that short amount of time, Perry Baker scored once and Carlin Isles twice to tie the game. Tomasin attempted a difficult conversion from the corner for the win but no luck, final score 24-24.
Following that draw, Mike Friday’s squad was next up against a rebuilding Wales side. The Eagles offense this time out got off to a fast start and didn’t look back. Seven different Eagles scored tries, and three eagles (two non-try scorers) converted kicks as nine eagles overall contributed to the rout of the Welsh by a final score of 47-5. Next, the USA took on fourth-ranked Argentina in their last match of pool play. The try-scoring threat on the USA team is Perry Baker, but one of the undersung players who makes things tick is forward Danny Barrett. Barrett scored two tries before halftime to give the USA a 19-5 lead in the first half then scored a third as the second half started to consolidate the lead and set the USA up for a victory. Carlin Isles would add one more as the USA won, 31-17.
Speaking of Barrett, here is a great interview he did with RWU’s Matt McCarthy.
*Watch or Download Podcast
Day 3 for the Eagles started with a big downer, then a positive rebound, and finally a frustrating final match. The USA once again looked slow out the gate, and unfortunately, they picked one of the worst teams on the tour to start out slow against, New Zealand. In the Cup quarterfinal, New Zealand looked impressive and dominated so thoroughly that even as an Eagles fan it is hard to point to a moment that changed the game. What did make a difference is that both Baker and Barrett had to leave the game due to injury, which definitely hurt the USA’s chance of winning and the final score was 7-35. Next up was the always dangerous Scotland side and the USA finally seemed to hit their stride there. With no Baker and Barrett, the USA still managed to look dangerous when they got the ball and their unselfish play led them to be up 12-0 at the half. The second half started with the USA adding another try to their lead. Suddenly, Scotland made a late bid to win on a comeback. The Scots scored three unconverted tries which would be the deciding point spread as the USA converted two of theirs. The final score saw the USA escape a scare 19-15. As the USA lined up for the re-match with Argentina in the Fifth place final, they looked a bit tired and started out sluggish. Argentina shot out to 14-0 lead before Carlin Isles scored for the USA just before the end of the half. Unfortunately for the USA in the second half, Maka Unufe would have to leave with an injury. Down a playmaker, Isles was able to score once again, but this time the try was unconverted, so the USA trailed by a converted try. Then a yellow card was given, and it seemed like a lock that USA was going to score in the remaining two minutes. However, a ferocious defense and a lack of composure saw the USA unable to cross the try line and lose a gut-wrencher 14-12.
The Fabulous Fijians:
The Flying Fijians 7s side seem to save their best for Hong Kong. Why not, it was Hong Kong that made 7s famous, and it was in Hong Kong where the legend of Waisele Serevi took shape. There is a reason that the series qualifier tournament was moved from England to Hong Kong. It is the biggest party and the jewel of the series so why not have it here. It isfitting that where the spotlight shines brightest, it has been Fiji 7s that has hogged the spotlight. The Fijians are the most popular side in 7s, with the greatest 7s player ever, and though they don’t always win, they play the game with the joy and sublime skill that 7s is meant to be played. All of this history means that is it is rather fitting that Fiji has won this leg four years straight and put together their best effort in this grandest of venues… The Fijians met upstarts Kenya in the Cup final, and the Fijian flair was there from the start as they opened up the Kenyan defense to score three unanswered tries in the first half. They cooled off a bit in the second half but the defense still held firm as they won 24-12. Considering the Fijians blew by Samoa and Russia before laying a whooping on New Zealand to finish pool play, they were in good form. The Form continued as they whooped Argentina to start knockout round play before edging out South Africa to make the final.
Kenya didn’t have the best start to the series, but as each round has gone on, they have slowly come into their own. The Kenyans won their first two pool matches before narrowly losing to Australia. They then knocked off Scotland in the quarterfinals before shocking on-lookers by defeating New Zealand in the semi-finals to face Fiji in the championship match. South Africa is desperately trying to hang on to the series lead, but the Fijians are relentless. The Blitzbokke ran into the Fijians in the semi-final and were unable to stop them. However, South Africa managed to win a crucial 3rd place match which gives them a 3 point lead in the standings.
Argentina has taken a major step forward this season, and they hope to keep it going. The Argentines are now hitting their stride and are playing some lovely team inspired rugby. As previously mentioned, they were able to scrape out a tough a win against USA to claim 5th place.
After falling short of making the Cup playoffs, France found their footing and went all the way to win the Challenge Trophy, resoundingly defeating Canada.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen… please welcome Japan back to the Sevens World Series. The Japanese won the 12-team qualifier for core status. The bottom-placed team of this season’s series will be relegated to non-core status. The qualifiers was a four horse race between Japan, Germany, Ireland and Chile. Germany knocked off Chile Kong in the first semi-final and Japan won a the final moments against Ireland, courtesy of two TMO calls. This set up Japan against Germany in the final. The Germans attempted a comeback that came up short last year in a 12-7 loss to Spain. This time, Japan became the “kardiac kids” with only 15 seconds left on the clock, it begun a final play that resulted in a full field try and to win 19-14. Hopefully, 3rd time will be the charm for the Germans next year.
Final standings were
Third: South Africa
Challenge Trophy: Scotland
The next leg will be in Singapore this weekend. Stay tuned to RWU for another preview and review of the tournament.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.