Philly Sports Live

US Takes Japan 7s Plate; NZ Closes In On Title

The USA Eagles needed a big result in Tokyo to keep their automatic status as an IRB World Sevens Series core team alive.  They got three.

The Americans got tries from Andrew Durulato, Shalom Suniula, and Nick Edwards, as they defeated Scotland, 17-0 in the Plate (5th Place) final match of the Japan 7s.  More importantly, the result gained the Americans a vital point in the Series standings, which tied them with Scotland for the twelfth and final automatic core spot for the 2013-14 Series.

The 5th place finish was the Eagles’ best finish at a World Sevens event since they lost to Samoa in the Cup (1st Place) championship match at the Adelaide Sevens in 2010.  It capped off a weekend that began with a 3-2-1 in six games at the Chichibunomiya Stadium.  But more importantly, they got two wins over teams at the top of the Series ladder along the way.

The US opened with a thrilling 24-22 win over Wales, who came in to the tournament in 6th.  From there, they then fell to Kenya, 21-10.  That set up their long awaited group match against the Scots, who by that point had already clinched a spot in the Cup Quarterfinal round.   Trailing 12-7 late in the game, Scotland’s Russell Weir scored a last second try to tie the match as time expired, but Colin Gregor missed the conversion attempt that would’ve given them the win.  Instead, the 12-12 draw gave the US life, and ultimately, a quarterfinal berth.

Entering the quarterfinals against the mighty New Zealand All Blacks, the Eagles kept pace with the Series leaders in the first half, but two Zach Test tries went for naught in a 19-12 loss.  Dropping down to the Plate bracket, Fiji, who were cup winners last week in Hong Kong despite missing some big name players, would not prove to be any easier.

The Fijians jumped out quickly, and ran up a 19-7 lead at halftime on tries by Sakiusa Gavidi Vatuinaruku, Leone Nakarawa, and Osea Kolinisau.  But the US stemmed the tide in the second stanza with Folau Niua breaking through to cut the score to 19-14.  On the final play of the game, however, the Eagles were able to keep the possession — and the game — alive, giving Luke Hume the chance to tie the game.  Suniula then converted the kick after the try, and the US had scored the upset.  The win led to the rematch with Scotland, won by the Americans.

Meanwhile, in the Cup, South Africa overcame a horrible showing in Hong Kong to turn back New Zealand 24-19 in the final.  The Springboks had to come from behind, getting two second half scores from Cecil Afrika and Cornal Hendricks to notch their second Cup win in three legs.  South Africa moved into 2nd overall in the Series standings, but New Zealand was still able to extend their lead on the tour championship to 32 points with two legs left, as they close in on their 11th Series title.

France, who finished third in Tokyo, gained enough points to clinch their spots as one of the 15 core teams for next season.  Kenya and Wales, despite not advancing into the Cup stage this past weekend, managed to do the same.

The series moves on to the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow on May 4-5 for the eighth and penultimate leg of the series, and the last in which teams can qualify automatically as core teams in 2013-14.  The bottom three clubs after Glasgow will go into a core qualifier tournament in London against five teams seeking to claim their spots.

The draw was made following the tournament in Tokyo, with the US being drawn into Group D along with core teams France and Wales, and regional wild-card Russia.  Scotland, meanwhile, was draw into Group B with New Zealand, England, and Portugal, who is currently in the drop zone.

International Rugby Board World Sevens Series Standings
After 7 of 9 Legs

1. New Zealand* – 132 points
2. South Africa* – 100
3. Fiji* – 98
4. Samoa* – 94
t5. France* – 77
t5. Kenya* – 77
7. Wales* – 68
t8. Argentina – 62
t8. Australia – 62
10. England – 58
11. Canada – 54
t12. Scotland – 46
t12. United States – 46
14. Portugal – 34
15. Spain – 25

*Clinched core status for the 2013-14 IRB World Seven Series