Archives for February 2015

2015 Vegas! 2016 Vancouver? USA 20 – 0 Canada

On a warm February evening in the daZZle of Vegas and for possibly the last time under their current flags, Fiji and New Zealand faced each other in a Rugby Cup Final. It was the USA leg of the HSBC Rugby Sevens Series and Fiji dominated the day winning 35-19. If the wishes of the current Fijian leader and a majority of Kiwi voters desire it, the Union Jack will shrink from once being on 50 national flags to now being on only 2 – Great Britain and Australia.

The four teams and thus their flags will most likely be on display at the Olympics in Rio during the opening parade August 5, 2016 . New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia are currently ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the HSBC Rugby 7s Series with the top four teams automatically qualifying. South Africa who is 1st in the series lost to Fiji in a semi-final. They finished third in the tournament defeating the USA in the semi-final losers’ match. Great Britain will qualify for the Olympics in many sports, but could get excluded from rugby in 2016 – at least in the men’s division. If neither England, Wales, or Scotland make it to the top four in this HSBC tournament series, then a combined British side would compete in a European regional play-off where they could possibly lose to a French or Portuguese side. And it is always fun to imagine Russian scientists planning a secret super team to enter the scene in 2016.

I thought I read this was the first time the USA made it to a Cup semi-final since Dubai in 2010. I checked Wikipedia and it had the USA losing to Samoa 38-5 in the Cup Quarterfinal in Dubai. I did a story a few years back about the 09-10 series when Caravelli was coach. They had a relatively low series ranking, but I can’t remember if they made it to a semi-final Cup match. Was this a first? This is certainly a side playing with a lot more confidence, thoughtfulness, skill, and speed than I have ever seen. By thoughtfulness I mean looking for the offload and keeping yourself in the play. Their determination is as good as it has ever been. Destroying a good Canadian side by 20 points in the Cup Quarterfinal was a magical moment. I have been an Eagle supporter on the other end of decisive dominance by Canadian sides too many times in the past to not have truly savoured the pleasure of that evening. For the very nice Canadian fans next to us, we appreciate your understanding and know that you are always the second team in our heart.

Their was a scary rumor floating around about the tournament moving from Vegas to Vancouver. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend. A 2010 DUI while attending my 40th high school reunion ( I definitely should have known better.) prohibits me from going to Canada for 6 more years. Maybe some Canadian who reads this could help me get a weekend pass if you think the tournament should change locations, or – to be fair- at least keep Justin Bieber at home.

If the tournament stays in Vegas, they need to do something about the stadium. There are too many players slipping, and if you are 5 or more rows back, you can’t see large portions of the pitch. It is a small college football stadium that doesn’t have the width for rugby sidelines. A good switch of locations would be Argentina and Florida if it stays this time of year. An article I read said Wellington attendance was shrinking. I would guess if you can see world class rugby down at the clubhouse for free, why pay to go in to town. The Kiwi side in Vegas was missing some key players but still good enough to make it to the Final. The chess moves are starting for Rio. Making sure the stars are healthy while giving your depth experience is a good strategy. The battle for the gold medal is shaping up to be a Kiwi vs either Fiji or Springboks.

Here are the thoughts of Mike “Spacer” Thompson on the Vegas Intl Tournament:

“the passing tales and glories that once was rugby town” vegas, philly, etc.

The new rugby town of las vegas, the tailgating, red rock mountains and big blue sky. My recollections include the super stud from Portugual (my MVP) who was jonesing when he tried to kick the ball into touch to end the game on Sunday, and the ball stayed in play….. The AIC winger was as unstoppable as a rhino….. There were 2 backs from Arkansas who were really good…… the officials and organizers did a fantastic job on the sidelines……

peace out

Vegas 2015: Less Clockwork Orange, More Mature Creativity

On the way to the airport for my flight to 2015 Vegas 7s I stopped at a thrift store to buy a book. I chose the 1986 edition of A Clockwork Orange. In the introduction the author, Anthony Burgess, tells how the edition published in the USA in 1962 had his final 21st chapter chopped by the publisher. For Burgess the final chapter was important because Alex, the protagonist, matures and chooses to turn away from his juvenile life of violence. The film by Kubrick based on the 1962 version forever carved the ultra-violent Beethoven loving Alex as a character who would never reform, but for Burgess the character evolved. In the final chapter Alex realizes that, “human energy is better expended on creation than destruction.”

The USA men’s 7s team performance in Wellington last weekend showed moments of great promise, but the continuing proclivity to run hard and straight into opposition with no appearance of looking for timely off-loads or way to maintain good possession will not move the Eagles to the next level. Coach Friday’s positive influence is overwhelmingly apparent. The Eagles are maturing. Hopefully in Vegas we will evolve into a team that expends much more energy on creative offense and less on intentional destruction of opposition.

It is an almost pointless exercise to extrapolate from one tournie to the next based on previous score differences. That said, here is my extrapolation. The Eagles’ pool in Vegas (South Africa, Japan, and Portugal) is probably the softest in what is becoming an increasingly difficult series to find an easy pool. The USA topped their pool in New Zealand which included South Africa. They lost to the Springboks in pool play (26-14), but South Africa’s surprising loss to France allowed the USA to top the pool based on point differential. The Eagles cruised past Japan 40-5. The last time the USA faced Portugal was in Australia last October. They won 33-0, but Portugal is a definite threat. In Wellington last weekend Portugal defeated Canada 26-0 in the Bowl Quarterfinal. With a boost from home field advantage the Eagles should, for a second consecutive series tournament, emerge from pool play as one of the 8 teams competing for the Cup.

With increasing confidence in their skills and the excellent growth they are showing under the guidance of Coach Friday, hopefully they will eliminate the indiscipline which saw them blow a 15 point lead over Scotland in the final minutes of their Cup Quarterfinal match in Wellington to lose 19-15 and let victory over Fiji slip away 12-10 in the final minutes of the Plate Semifinal. Their current 8th place standing in the series could be their best ever finish if they hold on to or hopefully improve upon this. Cracking the top 4 sides to automatically qualify for the Olympics is very doubtful, but they are looking more comfortably like a side that can defeat Canada in the NACRA Olympic qualifying tournament in North Carolina in June.