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Brilliant Ending to the World Series in LA

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Brilliant Ending to the World Series in LA

The New Zealand wolfpack. David Barpal photo.

World Rugby has to love how the LA Sevens, and by extension the World Series, ended on Sunday.

Going into the final two games we still didn’t know who would win the entire Men’s World Sevens season. To have the  drama last that long was unexpected, and certainly welcome.

In the end, it came off like this: South Africa crashed and burned at the most critical moment, failing to make the quarterfinals and ultimately finishing 13th. With the World Series standings based on the best seven of nine tournaments, South Africa would not add to their total of 124 points, as their LA finish was worse than any other tournament finish this season.

That left the door open for Fiji, who entered LA 20 points behind the South Africans, but had a 1-point tournament available to discord. So, win the LA Sevens and gain a net 21 points to go to 125. It also opened the door for Australia, which was two points behind but only able to discard a 5th-place finish (13 points). That meant that if the Aussies finished 5th, they would add no points to their total of 122, and if they finished 4th they would add two points.

That would have put them in a tie with South Africa, a tie they’d lose on total points difference. 

So the upshot was this: Fiji needed to win the tournament and for Australia to finish 4th or lower, and Australia needed to finish 3rd or higher.

South Africa was hoping for neither, and at the same time had to be thinking that taking 13th and still winning the Series was anticlimactic.

That might have been the only thing that was anticlimactic on the day.

USA

It was a tough Day Two for the USA. They had several calls go against them at crucial moments, and made a couple of small mistakes against Kenya that they punished.

Injuries slammed the American team. Joe Schroeder, injured on Saturday, was not able to return. They were already without Kevon Williams, and then David Still and Lucas Lacamp were ruled out. In the 5th place semifinal won by Kenya, Stephen Tomasin had a Kenyan player fall on his ankle in a lineout. The result was Tomasin was out, the ball bounced off his shoulder for a knock-on, and Kenya scored the game-winner off the ensuing scrum.

So 7th it was, and the USA finished 6th in the Series. This weekend was hugely valuable to the younger players as they were thrown into the firepit and, for the most part, survived. They weren’t outmatched, just a little outplayed at crucial moments … outplayed and, on occasion, outreffed.

New Zealand

The All Black 7s could not win the World Series because they missed too many tournaments. But an explosive, physical side with several contributors such as Regan Ware, Sione Molia, Akuila Rokolisoa, and Joe Webber, controlled most of their games.

In a thrilling final, they traded tries with Fiji in a game that went end to end. A key penalty try helped New Zealand maintain their lead and turn a 14-14 halftime score into a 28-21 victory.

Fiji

With fans in full voice Fiji was inspired and made the final, but it wasn’t quite enough. In the end they missed the LA Sevens title by a try, and missed the World Series title by a point. This for a team that had to miss two events due to COVID and were worrying whether they could compete at all.

Australia

They did it. In the end, after being taken apart by Fiji in the semis 29-10, the Australia weathered a dynamic Samoa attack and of course saw heroics from Corey Toole (probably the best overall performer this season), Henry Paterson, and Deitrich Roache for  21-7 win for third.

And that was enough to put them at 126 points for the season and the World Series title.

The Tournament

With improved and more varied food, some really impressive music, and boring stuff like a well-organized parking process made this a step forward for the LA Sevens.

It didn’t hurt that the teams with the most vocal fan followings made the quarterfinals; it didn’t hurt that the drama lasted throughout Day Two, so plenty of fans stayed to the end. The attendance numbers will come in later, but the expectation is that it was close to the 2020 tournament. Given that this was August, and a reboot coming out of all the COVID shutdowns and reschedules, and that the End of Summer Bash couldn’t be as big as the invitationals normally are, this was a pretty big win for the LA Sevens.

And the games weren’t bad, either.