London Sevens: USA defeat England and Australia to lift maiden cup
Americans cap off a fine season with Cup final win at Twickenham days after being named 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens hosts
The USA secured their first title on the HSBC Sevens World Series with an emphatic 45-22 win over Australia at the Marriott London Sevens.
On a weekend of upsets in the final round in front of another record crowd at Twickenham Stadium, the Americans stunned hosts England and Australia en route to their maiden Cup win as Fiji were crowned World Series champions for the first time since 2006.
Two tries from Danny Barrett and Maka Unufe and nine points from Madison Hughes, who was named player of the tournament helping the USA record a famous win at the home of English rugby.
Credit to those boys, the 12 of them have been absolutely fantastic, and there are about another 10 back in the USA that have worked their socks off all year, their work effort has been fantastic.
Their first cup win on the World Series caps off a fine year to claim sixth place in the final standings.
It is an impressive rise for Mike Friday’s charges, who finished 13th in the World Series just 12 months ago.
As an emerging force in sevens rugby, the maiden cup win comes just days after World Rugby – the sport’s governing body – announced that the USA will host the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco Bay.
“It is amazing,” Friday told the World Rugby website.
“Credit to those boys, the 12 of them have been absolutely fantastic, and there are about another 10 back in the USA that have worked their socks off all year, their work effort has been fantastic.
“I’ve said to them if you work hard in life then you get the rewards and they’ve been a credit to their country and their families, and I’m proud of every one of them.”
The next target for Friday and Hughes will be to secure their place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but they will face stiff competition from neighbours Canada to join Brazil, Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and Team GB.
But with the abbreviated form of the game continuing to grow rapidly in the States, and more than one million men, women and children playing sevens rugby there, the expectation is that there is more to come from the USA ahead of the sport’s maiden outing in Rio.
And that notion was echoed by the USA’s England-born captain and playmaker Madison Hughes.
“It is an absolutely incredible feeling,” added Hughes.
“I remember coming to this tournament as a boy watching from the stands hoping that I could play in it some day.
“The new management team Mike Friday, Chris Brown and Phil Greening, have revolutionsed the way in which we attack rugby, the way in which we train, and our rugby lives.
“There is so much more to come.”
Earlier in the day, two tries from Savenaca Rawaca helped Fiji defeat rivals South Africa in the Cup quarter-finals to ensure they would finish the afternoon as World Series champions for the first time since 2006.
The Pacific Islanders, coached by Ben Ryan, went on to defeat hosts England 26-12 in the third-place play-off before getting on the silverware.
And Ryan admitted afterwards that he had to remind his players to focus on the rugby.
“I can’t really put it into words, we were just focusing on the South Africa game, but deservedly won and took the title,” Ryan said.
“The boys were very overly emotional in the changing room and I had to control them a bit and remind them to start smiling and that this is supposed to be fun.
“It was certainly a topsy-turvy weekend. We wanted to go first day unbeaten and finish what we started in Gold Coast.”
Fiji’s success at the end of the nine-round series ended a four-year title streak for New Zealand, who finished third overall in the standings behind South Africa.
After a disappointing start to finals day in south-west London, Sir Gordon Tietjen’s side secured a 26-14 win over South Africa to lift the Plate and finish fifth with tries from captain DJ Forbes, Dylan Collier and Rieko Ioane.
“It was probably an awesome game to watch but it was really hard to play in,” Forbes admitted after the match.
“Against a good South African side, I guess we can hold our heads high.
“It’s hugely disappointing to finish third overall, but that’s the way sevens is going – any team can win on it’s day.
“We achieved one of our goals though, qualifying for Rio.”
Despite a disappointing season, Kenya salvaged some pride in London defeating Japan and Samoa en route to the Bowl final.
Collins Injera scored his 200th try in the 24-12 Bowl quarter-final win over Japan and celebrated by whipping out a permanent marker from a sock to sign the ball and a camera lens.
The Kenyan talisman was among the tries again in a convincing 38-7 win against Samoa and grabbed his forth of the day in a 26-12 win over Argentina in the final.
Epitomising the notion that the World Series is now so competitive that any nation can beat anyone, relegated Japan came from 19-0 down with tries from Yoshikazu Fujita, Lote Tuqiri and Lomano Lemeki to stun France 21-19 in the Shield final – their final match as a core nation – just a day after they pushed New Zealand in the pool stages.