Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
To do so, the Samoans outlasted England in an epic 24-minute match with two overtimes. Samoan captain, Lolo Lui notched a penalty goal in the dying moments of the second overtime to give Samoa a 15-12 win, a trip to the finals, and give the squad enough points to finish ahead of New Zealand in the overall standings.
You’d think that they wouldn’t have much left in the tank after their win over England and already iced series title, but Samoa came out and hammered Australia 41-14 in the final to win the Edinburgh Sevens and put one final stamp on their season.
To cap it all off, Samoan speedster Mikaele Pesamino was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year. Pesamino led the circuit with 56 tries this season, a whopping 23 tries ahead of the next person on the leader board.
It was another great season on the IRB Sevens World Series with even more parity than ever before. Likely due to the extra effort and focus being placed on sevens since the Olympic decision last October.
Fans of Rugby America already know plenty about the success of the USA this season, but teams like Russia, Portugal, and Japan are beginning to emerge as the next group of teams that are going to challenge the core teams in the coming years. Canada has also had a resurgence after dropping from core membership two years ago. With an 11th place finish, Canada should return as a core team next season.
As for the USA, they struggled to finish with a disappointing 1-4 record in the Edinburgh, but it may not have been as bad as it looks on paper. The team came on the final tour of the season without four key players and fought through a nasty bout of flu during this past week.
The team led all three of their pool games at halftime only to see Fiji, Wales, and Scotland overtake them in the second half. The USA won their only game in the Bowl Quarterfinal with a close 26-21 win over Portugal.
Kenya ended the USA’s season with a 17-12 win in extra time in the Bowl semifinals.
A disappointing end to the season, but do not forget the progress made this season. In what had been dubbed a rebuilding year, the USA landed their most ever points on the IRB Series and advanced to their first ever final in Adelaide. Not a bad way to make everyone forget about guys like Ngwenya, Clever, and Wyles.
Just as with last season, the last two tournament were not kind to the USA, but they were also playing the tournaments with a group of players that were being groomed for the next season. The results may not have been as sweet as earlier in the season, but the newcomers to the squad show promise. The kind of promise that will have fans chomping at the bit for next season.
Now comes the really hard part. As players part ways for the summer, how do they build on this season? Fan interest is at it’s highest and they will want even more success next season.
Some big question marks as the team heads into the off-season.
How will the players with less experience continue their developments? Club sevens at the top level in the USA is pretty good (and getting better), but just as in 15’s not nearly on par with International level rugby.
Who will Al Carvelli uncover next? Caravelli has come up big in the last few years bringing in relatively unknowns and letting them loose. Cross-overs athletes have done well, showing everyone that it is not a waste of time to bring them in and let them play at the highest level.
With an ever expanding player pool and lot of competition for spots, how will Caravelli keep the extended pool working? This past year, the USA headed off to play in a couple sub-international level sevens tournaments to get up and coming players some work. Will USA Rugby’s budget hold together enough to provide even more of the same in the future? The experiences, especially the time spent in Fiji, was invaluable to the success of the team this season.
There are even more that will need answered, but for now try to savor a damn good season by the USA Sevens team. They’ve done us proud amidst all of the obstacles that are thrown in their direction.