Last weekend, I headed through to Twickenham for the London Sevens, the 9th and final leg of the IRB Sevens World Series. As expected, the weekend was great fun and much like last year, very little rugby was actually watched on the Saturday by any of our large 122 person crew who made it through to Twickenham (except for when the Springboks or England were in action!).
There was a great crowd of roughly 65,000 on the Saturday, notwithstanding the iffy English weather, and virtually every person had dressed up with this year’s theme being ‘Monsters’. There were hundreds of ‘Descpicable Me’ minyons, just as many monster onesies, a large number of Honey Monsters (much to the disappointment of Sunny, who was hoping to be special) while five of us made up the Space Jam Crew!
What rugby we did watch was fantastic and, although core rugby skills remain important, there are far more upsets in 7’s than the 15-man game given there are fewer skill set-pieces (line-outs, scrums etc.) and far more space. Although your more traditional rugby powerhouses win the main competition, four trophies on offer ensure your lower-tiered teams do taste sucess and it’s great to see the likes of Japan, Canada and the USA doing well.
The weather would eventually clear in the afternoon and it was in lovely sunshine that we saw England upset the All Blacks 15 – 12 in the final match of the day. Saturday sees all group matches played with the knock-out matches all Sunday. What’s great about Sevens is that there are four trophies on offer so your tournament is not over should you finish last in your group. In descending order of prestige, the four trophies are the Cup, whose winner is the overall tournament champion, Plate, Bowl and Shield.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the Cup competition. The four quarterfinal losers drop into the bracket for the Plate. The Bowl is contested by the third and fourth-place finishers in each pool, while the Shield is contested by the losing quarter-finalists of the Bowl.
As it turned out, England’s win was awful for the Springboks as it meant we had to play the All Blacks in the Cup quarterfinal where we were comprehensively beaten 32 – 5. Things went from bad to worse in the Plate semifinal as we went three tries down to Samoa within five minutes but the boys fought back brilliantly to run out winners 24 -17 before soundly beating Kenya (38 – 14) in the final to ensure we headed home with some silverware.
The All Blacks had needed only to reach the quarterfinals to win the IRB Sevens World Series, their 12th win in 15 years, and they would proceed not only to win the overall title but also the final tournament of this year’s series, beating Australia in the semi-final 52 – 33. England finished third and Fiji fourth (only the Cup competition has a third and fourth place playoff). Canada beat Argentina to win the Bowl trophy while the USA took home the Shield after beating Japan in the final.
There are always far fewer people on the Sunday (only a handful of our group returned) but I enjoy the Sunday as I more closely follow the action. Sitting so close too you realise just how unreal the rugby is and how quickly things happen and I look forward to heading back next year when the Sevens returns to town.