Kenya continued to impress at the USA Sevens, which has become their tournament almost as much as it has been for USA Rugby. After what can only be described as a lackluster start to their HSBC World Sevens Series campaign, Collins Injera led the Kenyans to victories over Wales (22-14) and Argentina (21-7) in Las Vegas to win the USA Sevens Plate championship.
Lumped into the same pool at #1 New Zealand and #2 Fiji in the season kickoff Australia Sevens, the Kenyans went 1-2 in the first day, racking up a win against Niue before losing to Tonga and Japan in the second day.
The Kenyans’ woes continued the following week in Dubai, going winless for the first day, including a surprising 21-5 loss to Zimbabwe. They rallied the second day with a 35-5 win against the UAE in the Shield semifinals before losing to Samoa to end their day.
The South Africa Sevens and New Zealand Sevens were not much kinder to Kenya, where they lost to Zimbabwe in the South African Sevens Shield Finals before beating Australia 12-7 in Wellington’s Shield Finals.
The New Zealand Sevens marked the start of Kenya’s upward swing, as they carried the momentum from their Shield win in Wellington to move one level up the competition in Las Vegas with a Plate victory.
The Kenyans have usually stepped up their game when playing in the USA Sevens, whether they are able to feed off of the energy of their fan base in the USA (they are usually a crowd favorite in Vegas) or they begin to gel as a team about that time. Now the next question is, will they be able to carry that momentum on to the Hong Kong Sevens in late March?
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 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!
The field for the USA Sevens leg of the IRB Sevens World Series is starting to come together nicely, with this report from the IRB that Brazil has been invited to Las Vegas to give the sevens a whirl.
It makes sense to invite the Brazilians, if for no other reason than the combination of Brazil’s fans and the ever entertaining Kenyan fans could be an explosion of awesomeness! But Brazil is also the host country of the 2016 Olympic Games, where Rugby Sevens will debut. According to the IRB story:
Continue reading “Giving the USA Sevens a Brazilian… um.. twist!”