One year ago, USA rugby sevens captain Madison Hughes had a bittersweet taste in his mouth as his team lifted the Las Vegas title for their first-ever triumph in the HSBC World Sevens Series.
That was because he watched from the stands, having been sidelined by injury. On Sunday, however, Hughes was able to fully immerse himself in the celebrations as the Eagles successfully defended their title with a thumping 27-0 victory over Samoa in the final.
Hughes led his side in Las Vegas over the weekend as the United States recovered from an opening-day loss to Argentina to storm their way to the final – beating New Zealand in the semi-finals, before lifting the trophy in front of a delighted packed house at the Sam Boyd Stadium.
“If we’re going to win one of them, the one at home was the one we always wanted,” Hughes said. “It feels so good, particularly having missed out on it last year — I was up in the box — and now to be out on the field, it feels pretty good.”
The victory enabled the Americans to take the outright lead in the series standings with 98 points, five ahead of the All Blacks Sevens who finished with the bronze in Las Vegas. Fiji are third on 84 points.
🇺🇸 Back to back #USA7s titles.
🏆 Five consecutive finals.
🥇 Number one in the world.
— HSBC Sport (@HSBC_Sport) March 4, 2019
It was the United States’ first title of the season in the fifth tournament of the 2018-2019 series after four straight runners-up finishes. They lost to New Zealand in the Dubai final before suffering successive final defeats by Fiji in Cape Town and Hamilton.
At the Sydney Sevens, Hughes and his men were beaten by the Kiwis in the final.
Their victory in front of home fans was all the more remarkable given their speedster Perry Baker was out with an injured jaw. However, fellow sprinter Carlin Isles made up for his absence with a dominant display over the three days, with Ben Pinkelman also stepping up with outstanding performances for his team.
The United States will be hoping to extend their lead at the top of the standings as the teams travel to Vancouver, Canada for the sixth leg of the series this weekend. The Americans take on South Africa, Wales and one other team in their group.
Article written by Michael Hudson
Main photo by World Rugby