Beer, Loathing, & Rugby in Las Vegas – 2013

This is a work in process as I’m intending to follow the suggestion that I write this article  Hunter S. Thompson style and work in themes from his seminal work. I’m going to attempt that, but first I have to read the book.

Here goes just my own style – possibly to be later revamped into Mr. Thompson’s style.

Friday, Feb. 8th,  was a  chilly  and windy day that required a shot of Jameson’s to face the bright Vegas morning. As the day rolled on it just got colder. By the time the U.S. Eagles lost the final match of the day in a valiant effort against Samoa (12-7) the full bar concessions in the stadium couldn’t keep out the chill that made the leg of the kilted lass next to us look like a turkey neck.

Here comes the loathing part . The US Men  placed 8th which is their  best finish to date in this season’s  series, but they got beat by Canada, and so did the women – badly.

The U.S. Men squeaked  through their pool with a “time has run out”  brilliant conversion kick by Folau Niua. Niua’s  conversion in the 22-7 win over Spain gave the US the edge in a point differential decision that sent the men to battle Fiji in a Cup quarterfinal and then Australia in the battle to grab hold of the Bowl. In the Quarterfinal against Fiji  the Eagles were threatening the go ahead try with no time on the clock when Rocco Mauer reminded us that kicking is usually a bad idea and especially bad when time has run out and you are behind a try. The U.S. lost 19-21 to Fiji and were  sent to the Plate competition versus  the Maple Leafs who had lost to New Zealand 17-0 in their Quarterfinal. In the Plate Semi-Final Canada looked unstoppable when they  took  a lead right from the kick-off. Then  Zach Test and Carlin Isles brought some serious spirit and speed to the contest. The rest of the Eagles quickly embraced the spirit and made a game of it. The US going down by a try 24-19.

The focus of this column is the US team’s qualifying for the Olympics. The mindset of many of the athletes is based on a strong and deep desire to be an Olympic athlete. Last week in Houston the women seemed to show that not only were they definitely going to qualify, they were possible medalist. The Vegas  tournie had little to indicate the Lady Eagles won’t qualify. They are still consistently one of the 6 best teams in the world, and they should only need to be in the top 12 to get to Rio. There were strong indications though that if they do medal, it won’t be the gold – or the silver if Canada ends up standing next to Great Britain in Rio.

If men’s qualification requires one winner from the NACRA tournament, it probably won’t be the U.S. Chats around the pitch with well libated (possibly not a word) and shivering, but warm on the inside, compatriots and rugby fans from all over the world found general consensus  that the IOC & IRB will both agree that for $$ & development it is best if the US men have another route to qualification beyond  beating the Canadians – some sort of repechage play-off with  Tonga or Japan.

US problems range from poor tackling to failure to offload in a timely manner. The USA players, both men and women, need to study and practice how the Fijians fend-off stiff arms and the Fijian offloading ain’t so bad either. I include in the Fijians to watch the 5 who played for the New Zealand side that finished 2nd in the tournament Cup Final 40-21 to a very quick South African team.

The final in the women’s elite division of the match was a Canada A vs Canada B match-up. The USA women split into 2 fairly equal sides – The Stars and The Stripes. Canada split into an A-side and B-side. Canada’s B-side took out the Stars very easily 17-0 (official scores not up at time of article). This Maple Leaf B-side looked generally younger, like a new wave of Canadian rugby playing talent. The Stripes went down to the Canadian A-side that in the Cup Final waited til the last 4 minutes to bring on star players Mandy Marchak and Magali Harvey. They both scored and Canada A beat Canada B. When writing this article Day 2 and 3 scores scores weren’t on the LV Invitational website yet. Here is the link .

One last little thing before I go to the library to check  out a book, I’ve lived in a lot of countries and I can’t think of one where it wasn’t the protocol to stand silently when a national anthem was playing in the stadium. Occasionally gets press credentials and only once have I seen a member of the press sitting and chatting with his mate during a national anthem. He was an Argentine during a 2011 World Cup match. To tell you the truth, I’m not really offended,  just a little amazed when someone casually sits or strolls across a pitch when the entire stadium is silent and standing. Maybe I’m wrong on this, but the IRB should inform its match officials this is protocol.

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