DUBAI, UAE – The first leg of the 2018/2019 Men’s Sevens World Series kicked off over the weekend. The opening leg in Dubai, is on off the few legs that the men and women have simultaneously. That meant that is was a crazy 3 day party/competition down in the desert. The matches rarely failed to live up to expectation with a few surpassing them. The @Eagles7s had a great tournament as they finished 2nd… Losing the final to he New Zealand All Black 7s side.
Americans claim silver:
The Eagles had a good first day followed by an really good second day. Day one was filled with beating teams they should beat and day two was about beating teams they were favored to lose against. They 2-1 on both days and their lose on each day was to the same team. Considering how they are notoriously slow starters and historically poor finishes in Dubai, this was a very good weekend for the boys.
In their opening pool match win over Spain, the USA showed a ruthless streak that they sometimes lack. They started out like a house on fire, exploiting the holes in the Spanish defense to lead 17-0 at the half. They didn’t slow down in second either as they continued to pour it on in the 2nd half to win 31-0. The next match was against another opponent they were better than, on paper, Wales. There was a power outrage so there was no video of the game to review. The main notes was that the USA was so dominate and so far ahead that captain Madison Hughes came off at some point and Stephen Tomasin and Kevon Williams made conversion kicks as the USA won 33-12. The final pool match for the Eagles was against the New Zealand. Sometimes being in a pool with two teams that really not on your level can have its draw backs. It seemed the USA wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be to win a game against the All Black 7s. An early yellow card to Perry Baker didn’t help things and an inability to get the most out of penalities and finish trips inside their 22 with a try would do the USA in as the All Blacks went up 21-0 before the USA could respond. And just when it looked like the USA might be able to score again and make the match tight, the All Blacks won the ball back and punched it in to win 28-7.
The USA was in Cup playoffs but the path to a title looked rocky. The USA would draw last year’s 2nd ranked team and worldwide fan favorites Fiji. Honestly this match was not as tight as many expected. Part of it may be down to Fiji not looking as sharp as they normally do later in the series as they are also not know for great starts in the Series. However, credit to the USA for dominating the match from start to finish. The Eagles only trailed briefly in the first half 7-5 but from that point on they poor it on. Tries by Perry Baker, Martin Iosefo and Folau Niua, put the USA firmly ahead late into the second half (Baker’s try gave the USA a 12-7 halftime lead). Fiji were able to add one more try but it was too late, the USA had won 24-14 and were on their way to the semi-finals. In the semi-final, the USA would meet Australia, who were having a great tournament of their own. The Aussies and the USA have tussled many times over the past two years and it is always a close, hard to predict, affair. This was no different as the USA started out drawing first and second blood with two tries to take twelve point lead. Then the Aussies had their turn in quick succession to score 12 points and tie the game. Perry Baker then got a yellow card for an intentional knock-on which forced the USA to defend a man down. The USA defense held out as long as it could before surrendering a try, but by the time that happened Baker was ready to return to the action. With two minutes left on the clock the USA scored the game-tying try and with no time left and the numbers in red, the USA took a quick-tap penalty and Danny Barrett touched it down in the corner to give the USA the win 22-17. The win put the USA in the final against the New Zealand All Black 7s. This time, instead of being much sharper than before, the USA appeared to have been drained from having to up their game to beat Fiji and the winning the dog-fight against Australia. Again, the USA was playing way to error prone of a match if they had any hope of beating New Zealand. To beat the All Black 7s, you have to hope the make more mistakes than you and then you have to score of their mistakes. The USA was unable to do both and as such lost the match win, 21-7. It was closer than before but still not good enough.
The All Blacks Win It All:
Despite their long standing dominance on the tour, New Zealand had not won in Dubai since 2009. That was remedied and it seems the Kiwis are serving notice to Fiji and South Africa that it won’t be a two horse race as it has been the last three years or so. In third place, England seemed to continue their good form from the RWC7s and may be making a move to stake their claim to an Olympic auto-qualification spot (top 6 in the standings). The English defeated the Aussies to claim the Bronze.
Fiji got to play South Africa in a match that many thought would have been the finale, going into the weekend, but was for 5th place and the Fijians won. Samoa were able to shake off a poor day of pool play to win a tight match against France to claim the Challenge Trophy.
Final standings were:
Cup: New Zealand
Challenge Trophy: Samoa
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below.
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