England End South Africa’s Winning Streak at Canada Seven’s 2017

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England celebrates their 19-7 victory over South Africa in the final game of the HSBC Canada Sevens Series Rugby Tournament at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, March 12th, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Don MacKinnon (Photo credit should read DON MACKINNON/AFP/Getty Images)

‘They came, they learned and they conquered’ when it matter the most. Because for the second time only, the series leader has been eclipsed. And in a way, like the Britney Spears song “Oops I did it again” the English team surprisingly handed South Africa only their third loss of the season, to claim the Canada Sevens 2017 title.

England End South Africa’s Winning Streak at Canada Seven’s 2017

After the hard work was put in by teams on Day One, all will have started the next day with high hopes. And that included England. A side who had ‘lost their way’ since a great result in Cape Town, some were questioning their heart. They should not have, as the Lionheart spirit was on show under the roof of BC Place, Vancouver.

And with the hot rugby sevens action on show, it appeared that try-scorers were being celebrated. As first Perry Baker scored his 100th try for the United States. Soon enough, Scotland hero James Fleming too crossed for his 100th, and then the star of the weekend, Dan Norton, went and ‘stole the show’.

Norton who sealed the deal in the Cup Final, on his way to equaling Collins Injera’s Top Series Try Scorer record grabbing his 244th. As well, he claimed the Player of the Final and now sits Top of the DHL Impact Player ratings too. Certainly, he and his team mates were peaking at the right time, to end the Blitzboks record run of victories.

Blitzbok Suffer First Tournament Loss Since Wellington

Cup Final: South Africa 7 England 19

English execution was the key in this final. While all teams before the Blitzbok fell short in the shear presence of their adversary, today England dug deeper to come out victorious. The South Africans raced to an early lead through Siwive ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi. The game was played on a frantic pace which would usually suit the Boks, but the English knights were relentless.

They dug deep and pounced when needed; first through Richard De Carpentier, to go to the breather with both teams locked at 7-all. During the halftime pep talk, the Journey song ‘Don’t stop believing’ was blaring throughout the BC Place. It filled the hearts of the English supporters. It must have been heard in the shed too, as England came out firing in the second half.

With no sweeper at the back for South Africa, Dan Bibby chose a smart grubber kick-and-gather to extend their lead to 14-7. Moments later, it was Norton who earned the winning points (and equaled the all-time record) to end the final 7-19. The tall Englishman was devastating all weekend, along with Charlie Hayter, Tom Mitchell, James Rodwell and Bibby.

On the other hand, Dylan Sage continues to impress for South Africa. And with Rosko Speckman joining their injury list, he sadly pulled a hamstring on his way to the tryline. And Neil Powell will want his men to be sure they eliminate the small errors–they can still smile, with such a big lead on the Sevens Series table.

Canada Sevens – The LOWDOWN

All teams know now that they [blitzboks] are beatable and we shouldn’t stop believing.

For all the chasing teams, there is now a glimmer of hope. Coming into the Canada Seven’s 2017, it appeared to be a daunting task, but with one foul swoop England have shown the way. It is now up to other teams to learn those same lessons, to ‘don’t stop believing’ and to aim high.

This includes Fiji, New Zealand, Canada and Scotland. All teams who have been in the knockout stages, and will leave Vancouver with both a sense that ‘anything is possible’ as well as being weary of the South African teams reaction. A wounded animal, the Boks will return to Hong Kong with sharpened horns and even more desire to remedy their errors.

Even though Damian McGrath’s Canadian side could not break into the top four, beaten 5-12 by Argentina, they should feel very proud of their country men and women. Rugby may not be the top sport, but it has the top support-base, with another sold out weekend. Hat’s off to the city of Vancouver, who showed how to have a great time–when it is near freezing outside. Thank heavens for the covered stadium!!

Fiji Settles for Bronze

Vatemo Ravouvou nailed four sideline conversations to help Fiji settle for the Bronze place; winning 28-24 over United States. They were humbled by the English in the semi finals 40-7 handing the Fijians one of their worst ever defeats. Plenty more work is needed, defensive patterns to be looked at, but most of all is execution and discipline.

Thankfully, playing in Hong Kong is like ‘playing at home’ for this side but with the current environment in the team, we can only speculate. They don’t lack the talent but ‘the will to win’ in crucial games. Their kickoffs, handling errors and decision making all need to be worked on. Senior players need to own up to their shortfalls.

Perry Baker was on fire this weekend, grabbing nine fantastic tries. While grabbing his 100th series try, wonderfully he received a standing ovation from the crowd. With their recent consistency behind them, look for them to be more ruthless in Hong Kong. Andrew Durutalo was outstanding, together with Baker, Danny Barrett, Maka Unufe, Martin Iosefo and Madison Hughes.

Koroi Rescues New Zealand to Finish Fifth

Vilimoni Koroi came off the bench to rescue the Kiwis against Argentina 17-14. They were unlucky against England in the quarter finals, but came back to wallop the Aussies 21-0. The rebuilding work is in progress, with the blooming Koroi and Isaac Te Tamaki coming through. Trael Joas was excellent off the bench, with Andrew Kneewstub a great future lies ahead.

Argentina had a dramatic victory over Fiji on Day One, to book a Cup quarter finals spot, but got lost in the transition. Sadly, they looked average in the knockout stages, as they lost their way. Again their youngsters were impressive but indiscipline was crucial to their fall. Consistency will be on the agenda, heading to the Asian legs.

Wales Breaks Samoans Hearts (Again)

Two weeks in-a-row, the Samoans fell short in claiming the Challenge Trophy. The Welsh side came from behind to beat Samoa 19-12. Cory Allen brought to life Welsh hopes, and it was all too much for the Manu, as they faltered during crunch time. Wales will be pleased, but know their place is in the top eight.

Sir Gordon Tietjens will again regroup and hope that Samoa begins to show consistency. Maybe with little more urgency and ‘will to win’ especially the big boys. Their set pieces look impressive but lack execution. However, they will need the services of Falemiga Selesele and Afa Aiono going forward, bringing more depth in the bench.

Scotland Finish 13th in Vancouver

The Scottish always struggle on the second weekend of the roadtrip [tournaments back-to-back] and this week was no different. They had to come from behind to claim 13th place over Japan 24-19. They were locked up at 19-all near full time, before Bobby Beattie scored at the death. Fiji-born Joe Nayacaou was outstanding for the Scots, so too was ‘centurion’ James Fleming. He crossed for his 100th series try in Vancouver, and joins Andrew Turnbull in their exclusive Scottish 100-club.

Japan continues to improve heading to their home Asian leg: Hong Kong and Singapore. The youngsters in the side are finally finding their feet, especially Dallas Tatana. The Asian representatives reached the playoffs, beating Russia 21-0, while Scotland overcame France.

Expect the brave Japanese men to have good support. So close to home, it should be their focus, and they will want to be a great example for many of the smaller Asian nations, competing in the invitational tournament.

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Top Performers at the Canada Sevens 2017

Many records were made and broken/equaled this weekend. Men like DJ Forbes and Terry Bouhraoua continue to show that age is no barrier, while speed and strength led to many to score fine tries.

Leading the count there was Baker (9) and Norton (7). Matias Osadczuk earned six tries, with Scott Curry; returning from concussion, to grab five tries for the Kiwis. He was joined by Morgan and Zaruba. Bibby and Fleming crossed four times, as did Alexandre Legarde, Tila Mealoi, Ally Miller and Kalione Nasoko from Fiji.

Your Canada Sevens ‘Dream Team’

HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series table:

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Teams now take a short break, before joining up before the biggest event of the year: Hong Kong Sevens. The three day weekend is the step towards the final legs of the Sevens Series. Every team wants to put their name on the Cup, so all the core teams will aim high on April 7-9.

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“Main photo credit”

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