USA Sevens side suffer shock defeat on day one

Posted by Nazvi Careem (from World Rugby press release)

Defending champions United States suffered a shock defeat against Argentina – the team they beat in last year’s final – on the opening day of the USA Sevens in Las Vegas on Friday (US time).

The Eagles delighted home fans with their maiden HSBC World Sevens Series triumph last year but their South Americans showed they are still seething from last year.

With the scores locked at 19-19 with less than three minutes remaining in their Pool B match, US speedster Carlin Isles crossed over for what the home fans thought was the winning try. Indeed Los Pumas Sevens looked beaten, having also had a man sent to the sin bin. However, Luciano Gonzalez snatched a late try and Santiago Mare converted to give them a narrow 26-24 victory.

The US had earlier scored a comfortable 26-10 win over Kenya in their opening pool match.

New Zealand, twice winners in the 2018-19 series so far, Fiji, England and Australia also impressed while Chile held South Africa to a 5-5 draw in Pool C.

With the tournament in Las Vegas – the fifth stop on the circuit – being split over three days, all 16 teams took to the field and played two of their three pool stage matches. This stop marks the halfway point on the World Series meaning that every point is vital, not only for the title race, but also in the chase for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The tournament started in Pool D with Australia overpowering Wales 26-0 before Fiji reminded the world of their incredible offloading ability and handling accuracy to beat Scotland 36-12. The Fijians then overpowered Wales 33-14 later on to march confidently towards the second day of action.

John Dalziel’s Scotland may have lost to Fiji but Max McFarland still produced magic during their first 14 minutes in Las Vegas. The 25-year-old started with an incredible step on his own line before going the length of the field in style.

It’s a try that will be remembered for a long time, he added another peach against Australia too, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 24-12 despite being level at the interval. Pool D will be decided on Saturday morning when Australia and Fiji meet at 11:52am local time (GMT-8).

In Pool A, New Zealand didn’t see much of the ball for the first three minutes of their opening match against Samoa, however one big turnover was all that they needed to kick-start their competition.

After it arrived, Regan Ware notched up a brace within 30 seconds while Sione Molia’s 50th and 51st tries on the World Series also helped to bring about their 33-0 victory. Clark Laidlaw’s outfit then followed it up by beating Canada 33-19 as the All Blacks Sevens marked the start of Tim Mikkelson’s 80th World Series tournament in appropriate fashion. Mikkelson is only the fourth player to ever reach that number behind James Rodwell (90), DJ Forbes (89) and Dan Norton (81).

South Africa, pitched in Pool C, had a slow start against Japan but found their feet just before half-time. The back-to-back World Series champions pressed on for a 26-0 victory but found life hard going again when they met a gutsy Chilean side in the penultimate match of the day.

Los Condores Sevens’ Benjamin De Vidts locked the match up at five-apiece three minutes from time and it went down to the final moments as both teams pressed for the decisive score. Johannes Christoffel Pretorius thought that he’d crossed for the Blitzboks on the final play but instead lost control trying to slide over the line.

Elsewhere in Pool C England, who are looking to gain vital points in their bid to finish in the top four at the end of the year for Tokyo 2020 qualification on behalf of Great Britain, made light work of both Chile (22-0) and Japan (31-12) with the evergreen Dan Norton finishing his day’s work with a classy hat-trick against the latter.

The final pool stage fixtures will start day two on Saturday from 11:30am (GMT-8). The Challenge Trophy quarter-finals will then commence the afternoon session and the second day of action will conclude with the all-important Cup quarter-finals from 5:46pm local time.

Adapted from World Rugby press release

Main Photo: USA run out for their clash against Kenya. Credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

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