Samoa denied New Zealand back-to-back IRB Sevens tourney championships as the All Blacks are once again the bridesmaids in Las Vegas, losing to Samoa 26-19. Samoa won with a last-second try as time expired. The try capped a scoring flurry in the last few minutes of the Cup Finals match, with New Zealand fighting back from a 19-7 deficit in the second half to tie the game at 19-19 with time ticking down.
Samoa’s Alafoti Faosiliva powered over New Zealand defenders en route to scoring the Samoans’ game winning try after time had expired. Since the ball was still in play, as long as there were no game stoppages (penalties, etc) the game carried on after the clock read :00. Instead of kicking for touch and moving the game into the 5-minute sudden death OT, Samoa kept the ball in play after receiving New Zealand’s kickoff (once the All Blacks tied the game at 19) and drove the ball at the Kiwis. After passes crossing the width of the field and back, Faosiliva found the ball in his hands and fought his way across the try line.
The game was a nice contrast of styles – New Zealand played a nice, patient, finesse style of game, but still wasn’t afraid to take the ball into contact, while the Samoans seemed to crave running directly at the All Blacks. The first half stats showed the difference in each team’s style, with New Zealand completing many more passes than the Samoans, but the Samoans holding onto a 12-5 lead at the half.
The International Rugby Board had decided to open up the Sevens World Series to all nations in a qualifying tournament at the Hong Kong Sevens. According to the International Rugby Board:
Three teams will advance from a dedicated 12-team regional qualifier finale, securing coveted core team status and joining the current core teams…
Which would increase the number of teams participating in each leg of the Sevens World Series from 12 to 15.
I hate to play the part of the wet blanket on the IRB, but I have to ask –
The New Zealand All Blacks once again reigned supreme in Wellington at last weekend’s New Zealand stage of the IRB Sevens World Series. Aptly called the “Hertz Sevens,” for title sponsor the Hertz Car Rental Company, the All Blacks dished out plenty of ass kickings all around in Wellington – going undefeated in pool play and sweeping their way through the championship bracket en route to their tournament victory. With the win the All Blacks broke their tie with runners-up Fiji at the top of the Sevens World Series standings.
Team USA hit the wall in Wellington, going 0-for-the tournament. After a promising 21-0 loss to USA Sevens Tourney champs South Africa, the Eagles lost to England and finally to the Cook Islands (26-22) in their last match of the first day. The second day Eagles fans were witness to defeats to Wales and Scotland to knock them completely out of the tournament.
And the Kenyans, looking to recover from their first day 1-3 showing (with a victory over Australia) put Wales and Scotland to the sword before handing Australia their second loss in two days with a 12-7 win in the Wellington Bowl Finals.
Now the eyes of the Rugby World turn to the United States, for this weekend’s USA Sevens in Las Vegas.
There are several questions that need to be asked and answered by the time the USA Sevens ends this weekend. Can the All Blacks hold on to their tight series lead over Fiji and England? Can the Islanders rally this weekend in Vegas? And what about defending USA Sevens champions South Africa, can they repeat as champions? And what about Kenya? The Kenyans and their fans always delight the crowd in Las Vegas!
And, of course, how will the teams recover from a grueling weekend of Sevens in New Zealand, a 14-16 hour flight, and preparation in the Nevada desert in less than a week? These questions and more will be answered this weekend! If you don’t have Universal Sports, or the NBC Sports Network, formerly known as the “Versus” network, you can catch the latest updates at universalsports.com or usarugby.org!