Australia 22, Wales 19: Enter the Dragon? Or maybe not…

The Welsh Dragon was close to roaring Saturday in a place known as a “Land Down Under,” (Danger, cheesy video link) as their match with Australia teetered back-and-forth like a prize fight in the final quarter of the game.

The current Six Nations champs, the Welsh have looked incredibly strong in recent matches, reaching the 2011 Rugby World Cup semifinals only to lose 9-8 to France; and winning their third Six Nations title in six years. Their tour of Australia has been no different.

Mistakes turned out to be the name of the game for Wales throughout the first 60 minutes as each time Wales started to drive they’d get hit with a penalty, or knock the ball forward. Australia was able to capitalize on many of those penalty kick attempts.

In fact, much of the game was based around penalty kicks, in a stark contrast to the All Blacks-Ireland tryfest. Australia’s flyhalf Barrick Barnes traded shots with Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny for much of the first half before Welsh #8 Ryan Jones took advantage of Wales’ attack to score the game’s first try, and thanks to a successful Halfpenny conversion Wales held onto a 16-12 momentary lead.

Because shortly after the game resumed Australia responded with their own try from centre Rob Horne, which had to be confirmed by the TV Monitoring Official. Barnes missed the conversion kick, which left Australia with a precarious one point lead, 17-16.

In the last ten minutes of the match, Wales and Australia traded the lead as each team scored penalty goals, with Australia holding onto to the win.

While Australia did take the series 3-0, all three of the Wallabies’ wins were close – the largest margin being 8 points in the first match in Brisbane. This should be taken more as a sign of Wales’ continued positive team development than it is of Australia taking it easy on their visitors from the North.

IRB Announces Hong Kong Pools–Does USA No Favors

The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union recently announced the pools for the Hong Kong Sevens, the next leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. Long considered the premier event in the Sevens World Series Calendar, the Hong Kong Sevens has long hosted 24 teams, in six pools of four, as opposed to the four pools of four that every other tournament has. This gives exposure to more nations which might have been passed over for the other tournaments, such as this year’s entrants Spain, the Philippines, Russia, Portugal, China and others.

(You can find the full listings of HK Sevens pools here)

The United States finds itself in Pool B, facing off with Sevens World Series leader New Zealand, last year’s USA Sevens champions (and sitting in third place in this year’s standings) South Africa and plucky U.K. representative #8 ranked Wales. While the U.S. went winless the first day of the USA Sevens tournament, the Eagles were able to score a nice win against France before being eliminated by the Aussies in the Bowl semifinals. Will the USA be able to carry their form against France through to the Hong Kong Sevens?

Another SuperSite favorite, Kenya, might be able to find a better result in the Far East. Facing USA Sevens champions Samoa, as well as England and Argentina in Pool A. While each of these teams are ranked above Kenya, the Kenyans have been able to pull out many close matches against top talent in recent years (remember their back and forth match with the All Blacks at the 2011 USA Sevens). Plus with stars like Collins Injere coming back from injury to the team, the Kenyans have the potential to pull an upset on at least Argentina, and possibly Samoa.

One of the problems for the US, and other smaller rugby nations, in the USA Sevens might have been the quick turnaround between the New Zealand Sevens and the event in Las Vegas – less than a week to return to the States, shake off the jetlag of 16+ hours in the air and return to form. Now the teams in the World Sevens Series have over a month and a half before they have to return to the pitch at the Hong Kong Sevens, giving them plenty of time to recover and prepare.

NOTE: The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the world’s most storied and popular sevens tournaments, starting in 1976 after a discussion between the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and an executive from the Rothmans’ Tobacco company. The inaugural Hong Kong Sevens tournament hosted national teams from throughout the Asia-Pacific Rim, as well as representative teams from Australia and New Zealand.

For decades since the inaugural Hong Kong Sevens, the tournament became THE event to follow if you were a Sevens Rugby fan, especially for the excited and rambunctious fans, who are often worth the price of entry alone. It can also be argued (and I often do) that the popularity of the Hong Kong Sevens, along with a select few other Sevens Tournaments (Scotland’s Border Sevens among them) for fostering the eventual creation of the IRB Sevens World Cup and the current Sevens World Series.

All Blacks Wins NZ Sevens – What Does Fate Hold for Las Vegas?

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!