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Rugby 7’s: Edinburgh Sevens – Day 1

The IRB sevens series culminates in Scotland this weekend – the home of sevens rugby.

In two days of non-stop rugby, 16 teams will battle it out to claim the Murrayfield crown. Last year, New Zealand defeated Samoa in the final, but it was South Africa who claimed the series title for the very first time.

This year, however, the championship has been between two nations – Samoa and New Zealand. Samoa only need to reach the final to claim the series. However, if they fail to do so and New Zealand can win again in Edinburgh, it will be they who will succeed for a record ninth time.

Today, though, all 16 teams are split into four groups of four and will play each team from their section once. The final standings will determine which tournament each side will play in tomorrow’s finale, with the top two from each group competing in the Cup.

Here is a run down on what happened today:

Pool A

Results: Samoa 42 Kenya 5, Argentina 5 France 14, Samoa 38 France 26, Argentina 26 Kenya 14, Kenya 5 France28,  Samoa 10  Argentina 31.

Table:

Pool A

Won

Lost

Draw

For

Against

+

Points

Samoa

2

1

0

90

62

28

7

Argentina

2

1

0

62

38

24

7

France

2

1

0

68

48

20

7

Kenya

0

3

0

24

96

-72

3

It did not all go to plan for IRB series’ leaders Samoa, who won two of their three games to top the group. Despite a shaky start in the opening match against Kenya – where they lost an early try – recovery soon came after and they were able to wrack up six tries and, with it, 42 points.

The Argentina clash, however, proved to be a difficult one for Hong Kong, United States and Australian sevens champions. A 31-10 hammering was, in truth, a deserved one and meant Argentina finished second in the group

The match between Samoa and France was far closer, and they, again, lost the first try. Despite going into the half-time interval all square, Samoa’s class shone through after the break to win 38-26.

France had earlier come out on top in a tight match with Argentina. A nine point margin in the end was the result of tries from Mathieu Besson and Bastian Sohet. This an important three points but, despite a 28- 5 win against the lightening quick Kenya, it was still not enough to see them qualify for tomorrow’s Cup quarter-final in second place along with Samoa. Argentina, instead, took their place by virtue of point’s difference

Kenya will be disappointed with their day’s work and, because of the loss to Argentina, they finished bottom of the section which means they will compete in Sunday’s Shield event.

Pool B

Results: New Zealand 57 Russia 0, South Africa 49 Italy 5, New Zealand 52   Italy 0,  South Africa 19 Russia 7, Russia 24 Italy 12, New Zealand 24 South Africa 17.

Table:

Pool B

Won

Lost

Draw

For

Against

+

Points

N. Zealand

3

0

0

133

17

116

9

S. Africa

2

1

0

85

36

49

7

Russia

1

2

0

31

88

-57

5

Italy

0

3

0

17

125

-108

3

New Zealand predictably won the section at a canter. The Kiwis looked impressive throughout, although their opponents in the first two matches were not of the quality you would expect to trouble them.

Hammerings of Russia and Italy in the opening two matches – scoring 109 points – were enough to see them through to the Cup tomorrow.

The final group game against South Africa was a closer one for the All Blacks, but, even with a poor start, they recovered well enough in the second to top the group.

The defending series champions and London sevens holders South Africa finished second in the pool because of wins against Italy and Russia.

They began the weekend against Italy and, although they ran out 49-5 winners, Italy put up a brave fight in the first half. However, class showed through in the end.

Russia, however, provided a much stiffer test for the Springboks. A 19-7 victory shows how close the game was for South Africa, but they know they will have to up their game if they are to have a chance of winning the Cup on Sunday.

Russia, who impressed throughout the day, secured third spot with a 24-12 win over Italy. Despite the Italians leading for some of the match, a Nikolay Shugay try put the Russians ahead inside the second half. Roman Timofeev then wrapped up the win in the final seconds which puts them into the Bowl, while Italy will have to settle for the Shield.

Pool C

Results: Australia 14 Canada 0, England 17 Portugal 5, Australia 35  Portugal 21, England 19  Canada 26, Canada 14  Portugal 28, Australia 21 England 21.

Table:

Pool C

Won

Lost

Draw

For

Against

+

Points

Australia

2

0

1

70

28

42

8

England

1

1

1

57

52

5

6

Portugal

1

2

0

50

66

-16

5

Canada

1

2

0

40

57

-17

5

Group C was the closest section out of the four, and provided the shock of the day.

In the opening matches of the pool, Australia and Canada were unable to break each other down for long periods, and it was not until within five minutes of time left did the Aussies manage to score. This was cruel on Canada, but they were to have their moment of glory against England in their next group game.

With England being reduced to six men at the beginning, Canada took full advantage and took an early lead, but this was cancelled out with a powering run from Uche Oduoza. Canada regained the initiative, and almost let a 14-5 lead slip as England rallied.

However, two late tries from Sean Duke and Justin Mensah-Coker gave the Canadians a surprising win.

England had also struggled in their opening match, but still managed a 17-5 win over Portugal. Meanwhile, Australia topped the group with wins over Portugal and Canada and a draw with England. Portugal finished third by points difference of only one, meaning Canada, even with the win over England, came in last.

Pool D

Results: USA 10 Wales 19, Fiji 14 Scotland 31, USA 12 Scotland 33, Fiji 26  Wales 7, USA 12 Fiji 24, Wales 21  Scotland 33.

Table:

Pool D

Won

Lost

Draw

For

Against

+

Points

Scotland

3

0

0

97

47

50

9

Fiji

2

1

0

64

50

14

7

Wales

1

2

0

47

69

-22

5

USA

0

3

0

34

74

-40

3

Host nation Scotland enjoyed an inspiring Saturday as they qualified for the Cup for the first time during this year’s series.

A demolition of the much fancied Fiji was followed by another great win, this time over the United States. In both games Scotland were the better side and scored a barrow load of tries, with Mark Robertson, Andrew Turnbull and John Houston scoring two each in the two games.

The all British affair with Wales produced more great rugby from Scotland, and they managed a comfortable 33-21win to top the group. This means Scotland will take on England tomorrow in the Cup.

Fiji recovered from their opening match defeat to beat Wales 26-7. The big, powerful Island were a brute force and Wales never looked like building on their 19-10 win over they secured against the U.S.

The United States ended a disappointing day with defeat against Fiji, despite playing well, especially in the first ten minutes. However, a lack of quality for the Americans means they finished bottom and, with it, entry into the Shield.

A crowd of nearly 11,000 turned up to Murrayfield to witness 24 scintillating matches. The day had everything; shocks, fantastic tries, sin bins and a dozen or so members of the crowd running onto the pitch to add to the atmosphere.

Tomorrow will see the teams split up into the appropriate qualified tournaments, with England versus Scotland in the Cup quarter-finals sure to bring the crowds back for another day.

About Stewart Primrose

Stewart Primrose
Stewart Primrose is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland, working mainly on rugby and football.

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