The Singapore Sevens brightened up the enormous Singapore National Stadium, with some exciting rugby sevens matches where Fiji chases historic back-to-back titles. They were the more composed side, who racked up the points in front of the ‘average sized crowd’ that gathered on Day One.
No doubt, the Blitzboks still remain their biggest threat, along with New Zealand and the revived United States. England looked a different side in their game against South Africa, playing a tough style that will see them go far on Day Two.
Kenya, only hanging on to their title with a thread, also had success but will need to find that inner steel. However, the young Aussie team could surprise all, and may be that ‘dark horse’ side who walk away with the title–just like Kenya did last year.
Fiji Chases Historic Back-To-Back Titles
Fiji has never won back-to-back titles since the inception of the World Rugby (formerly IRB) Sevens Series. They have won back-to-back Series [2015/16] but never when it comes to individual tournaments. It’s their Achilles Heel but the way they have been playing the last two weeks gives fans hope they can break their duck.
The champions have made three changes from Hong Kong and were never really tested on Day One. They certainly look solid. The Americans have an uphill battle, when facing Fiji in the quarter finals tomorrow but like Isake Katonibau said last weekend “we don’t count our chickens before they hatch.” Katonibau also went on to say that;
“A good team wins a game but a good defensive team wins a championship.”
Defense will be vital for them, as they have the arsenal which can fire from any part of the field. Waisea Nacuqu had a outstanding first day, with Seta Bituniyata and Isake Katonibau both good performers. Watch for that secret weapon from them tomorrow, as Fiji chases historic back-to-back titles.
Singapore Sevens Day One: The LOWDOWN
Pool A – Fiji, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong.
Fiji put on the after-burners on Day One, to win three from three. They racked up 115 points against 14 given. With news trickling in from the commentators that Isake Katonibau was playing his last ever tournament, the Fijians ‘put on a show’ with Katonibau taking the lead role. They haven’t been tested all day and that could be good either way for them.
Hong Kong defied the odds here, to beat one of the big boys Russia 19-26. The Paul John coached side showed why they deserve to be in the series fulltime, so maybe that will occur in the next two seasons. Hong Kong will have to dig deep to qualify and compete with the best. They will be good in the Asian Sevens with all they’ve learned from these past two tournaments.
Russia continues to impress with every outing, a little more time with the big boys and they will be there, while Canada seemed to be out muscled when they played Fiji, but had little trouble in the other two matches.
Pool A results: Canada 28 Russia 15 | Fiji 40 Hong Kong 0 | Canada 34 Hong Kong 0 | Fiji 38 Russia 7 | Russia 19 Hong Kong 26 | Fiji 35 Canada 7
Pool B – South Africa, England, France, Japan
England has done it again; they lost earlier in the day to France but brought the house down against South Africa. The English needed that win in their final game and they did, overwhelming the series leaders 17-12 to top the pool. They looked lethargic in the opening round loss, but bounced back to beat Japan and South Africa.
Japan brought the house down when they stunned France 14-21. Magnificent, they need more competition points to overcome Russian, and stay in the series next season.
France showed up today, challenging South Africa, but were unlucky as injury took its toll on key players like skipper Pierre-Gilles Lakafia and Alexandre Lagarde. And the championship leaders South Africa will want to push the ‘restart’ button on Day Two. Good in parts, but that won’t win you a championship title.
Pool B results: England 14 France 24 | South Africa 52 Japan 0 | England 40 Japan 10 | South Africa 10 France 7 | France 14 Japan 21 | South Africa 12 England 17
Pool C – Australia, Argentina, Kenya, Samoa.
Wounded Australia overcame the odds, to top Pool C. After losing James Stannard and Ed Jenkins, possibly captain Tom Lucas too, their young rookies stood up to take them through winning three out of three. Simon Kennewell, Liam McNamara, Henry Hutchison, Charlie Taylor (see below) and lone senior player Tom Kingston [still fit] must take over the mantle now on Day Two, as they challenge for the title.
Kenya survived Samoa’s wrath, to progress to the Cup quarter finals thanks to their upset win over Argentina in the opening game 22-7. However, they really need to work on their mistakes, as they try to defend their title. The young boys in the Kenyan team have performed well, but it will be their mental toughness that will be tested tomorrow.
Unfortunately, Samoa and Argentina will feature in the Challenge trophy yet again.
Pool C results: Argentina 7 Kenya 22 | Australia 19 Samoa 12 | Argentina 17 Samoa 7 | Australia 29 Kenya 7 | Kenya 17 Samoa 7 | Australia 19 Argentina 7
Pool D – United States, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales.
New Zealand overcame the ever improving United States side 21-14 in the final game of the night session, to top Pool D. The Kiwis started the better and it was key to their win over Team USA. Regan Ware had a great outing toda,y together with young Joe Ravouvou and the ever talented Vilimoni Koroi.
Joe Ravouvou. Take. A. Bow. 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/EdmXSut6tL
An early scare to the NZ side might have shown that Scotland had ‘brought it’ at the Singapore Sevens, but on the final match, Wales withstood the late onslaught by Scotland, to take third place in the pool 21-19. The Celtic sides were close today in challenging their opponents, but didn’t do enough to win that one big match that makes so much difference. They will regroup heading into day two, and then up to a more familiar European leg.
Pool D results: New Zealand 22 Scotland 21 | United States 35 Wales 19 | NZL 36 Wales 14 | USA 33 Scotland 26 | Scotland 19 Wales 21 | USA 14 NZL 21
With the night session over, teams repaired to their hotels to lick their wounds. The burden of [now] five days of play combined with the heat and humidity, was a big test. One of the more demanding legs [Hong Kong and Singapore], every side only needs to retain a reserve of energy for the highlight of every tournament–Cup and Trophy finals day.
Singapore Sevens – Day Two Fixtures
HSBC Cup quarter finals: The vastly improved Team USA will take on Fiji first-up. They must be at their very best to challenge the South Seas Islanders, so coach Mike Friday will need to build-up their confidence to maximum level.
The Australia v South Africa match is the most mouth-watering clash. With the Blitzboks possibly affected by a loss in armory, this is the Aussie men’s best chance to step above their combatants. Many other teams will also be hoping for this outcome, to regain ground on the table leading Africans.
New Zealand will need to be cautious, yet still execute the game plan. Scott Waldrom and Tomasi Cama will know this is the chance to seal a semi final place; possibly against Australia.
The last match-up is the ‘battle of the Commonwealth’. Kenya maybe defending champions, but they must be on the attack. England are no fools, so expect some fireworks at the breakdown where the sharpest team should prevail.
Challenge Trophy quarter finals: After Scotland claimed the Hong Kong trophy, they go in as favourite although, Argentina and Samoa will be competitive. The one contest which may go either way is the Wales v Russia clash. Not meeting on many occasions, how the Russians fear will also be a measure of their chances of securing a 2017/18 sevens series berth.
Hong Kong vs Scotland | Argentina vs France | Wales vs Russia | Japan vs Samoa
Join Last Word On Rugby as we follow all the action of the HSBC Singapore Sevens.
“Main Photo Credit”