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World Tens Opens Up A Brave New World

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World Tens Opens Up A Brave New World

Action from Day 1. Photo via World Tens Series.

Oddities and surprises dotted the opening day of the new World Tens Series in Bermuda, but it was rugby, and it was rugby with a bunch of Americans doing pretty well.

After the first day of the six teams each playing three 20-minute games, Rhinos sat atop the standings at 3-0, as did the London Royals. Three teams sit 1-2, with one of them, the Ohio Aviators, being perhaps a bit of a head-scratcher as they dominated possession and territory against London, but gave up a try on an interception and somehow failed to score on two long periods right on the goal line.

Weird Rules

Along with the rules that teams had only ten players and games were 20 minutes, some other variations made for an interesting day. There were rolling subs, so any time the ball was dead players could come in to replace teammates. This included when there was a kick to be made. Why did that matter? Well …

Conversion kicks counted for different amounts depending on where you kicked from. Tries remained five points, but then you had a choice on the conversion: from in front of the posts and close-in, the conversion was 1 points; at an angle and a little farther out, it was 2 points; at an angle and about 40 meters out, it was 3 points, and from the center spot 50 meters away, it was 5 points.

This produced some interesting decisions regarding what to kick and why, and how to sub. The Aviators subbed on Ben Cima specifically to hit the 50-meter five-pointer, and he did in fact connect on a couple, including the first ever successful five-pointer in the series.

Other kickers were successful, too. But the tactics also meant that if you were 10 points behind, and you scored a try, you should go for the easy one-pointer, because then a try puts you ahead.

For the most part teams eschewed the other conversion options because the three-pointer was too difficult, and the two-pointer was also difficult while providing scant reward. (Most who tried the two-pointer missed.)

Conditions And Conditioning

Most of the players had not been playing competitive rugby for several months, and it showed. While they tried to make the snazzy offloads and laser passes, often they didn’t connect, especially in the early going. There were also a few players (we won’t name them) who looked rather seriously out of shape.

The muffed passes and drops could also be attributed to the heat. It was very warm and humid in Bermuda and the sweat rubbed off on the ball (we know, isn’t that nice) making it very difficult to control. As a result, those sweet one-handed wraparound passes often ended up being sad little knock-ons.

But … as the day wore on, the players got smarter, and as the weather cooled, they were able to hold onto the ball a but better.

Tactics

Along with the kicking tactics, we saw teams experiment with their approach to 10s. Some teams looked to be playing a form of 7s with just a few more players. Other teams looked to be playing a form of 15s with just a few fewer players. London was more of a 7s team, which was a reflection of the kinds of players they recruited. But they were in jeopardy of being overrun physically at times.

Only some smart substitutions while handling a couple of goal line stands against Ohio saw them through as victors.

Ohio went for more of a power game and that worked superbly on their opener. But somehow they went away from that in the second match, losing 12-0 to a much more balanced Rhinos team.

The Rhinos fielded hard guys who could run and fast guys who didn’t mind the rough stuff, and the combination was an exciting one.

US Products Show Well

He’s English but his four years at UCLA certainly helped as Patrick Regan was a breakout player for the Rhinos. Playing lock, but with the ability to cover the ground like a flanker or a center, Regan played effective defense and was in on the scoring.

Another UCLA product, Eric Naposki, made some outstanding plays, including one against Phoenix that included a perfect setup pass as he was running full-out, and had been for about 40 meters.

Zach Bonte, also with the Rhinos and also (some time ago) from UCLA quietly went about his business knocking people down and securing ball.

Jake Hidalgo, late of Indiana, also made some big plays, while Aaron Matthews was one player who truly understood how to play an elusive game but also how to control the point of contact.

Ohio would do well to give Bryce Campbell (2017 Scholz Award Winner from Indiana) more playing opportunities because he was a monster at times. Cristian Rodriguez out of Lindenwood also looked effective, but Ohio seemed to think all of their ballcarriers could break every tackle, so there wasn’t a lot of support running.

Vili Toluta’u (Central Washington) seemed somewhat at home at hooker for the Asia Pacific Dragons despite the fact he would prefer to be a flanker. For London, Zinzan Elan-Puttick (Arkansas State) didn’t see a lot of time but he made some plays when he did. There was also a very nice Nik Boyer sighting as the former Cal All American scored an excellent try early on.

Monday

Everyone gets two more games on Monday. The big one has to be the Royals against the Rhinos, and once again it’ll be a clash of styles. Then we will also see Ohio play Miami and Asia Pacific as all three of those teams make a push to finish 3-2 and take 3rd. Miami still has to face the Rhinos, which makes it harder. APD has Ohio and the beleaguered (and quarantine-depleted) Phoenix team. So it looks like APD vs Ohio will decide 3rd.

Round 1 Day 1 Scores:
Miami Sun 6-23 London Royals
Phoenix 0-26 Ohio Aviators
Asia Pacific Dragons 5-16 Rhinos
Ohio Aviators 0-12 Rhinos
Phoenix 0-32 Miami Sun
London Royals 12-0 Asia Pacific Dragons
Phoenix 10-38 Rhinos
Ohio Aviators 10-11 London Royals
Miami Sun 0-20 Asia Pacific Dragons

2020 Round 1 Standings After Day 1
Team W L T PF PA PD BT Pts
Rhinos 3 0 0 66 15 51 1 13
London Royals 3 0 0 46 16 30 1 13
Ohio Aviators 1 2 0 36 23 13 1 5
Asia Pacific Dragons 1 2 0 25 28 -3 1 5
Miami Sun 1 2 0 38 43 -5 1 5
Phoenix 0 3 0 10 96 -86 0 0