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What the 7s Tells Us

Monday Aug 17, 2009 in Sevens Club Competitions

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Some thoughts and photos from the USA Rugby 7s Club Championships.

All photos are by Dobson Images and are copyrighted by them.

1. Standard of play. The standard of 7s play gets better every year, this year's tournament was at a pretty high level. Teams that finished pretty low on the totem pole all know how to play 7s, they just had one or two fatal flaws - not enough speed, too much dependence on one player, lack of true 7s fitness.

2. Types of play. You don't have to keep the ball out of contact and swing it back and forth looking for the big break. That's only one way to play. Teams without a lot of team speed can adjust their approach. Some concentrated on smart team defense (which requires a lot of conditioning). Still others worked on offense to engage contact, suck in defenders, and stay strong in the tackle so they could offload. That's how Old Blue and Chicago Lions made the top four.

3. Restarts and momentum changes. Too many teams gave up free kicks because their kickoffs didn't go ten meters. As the wind played havoc with the ball, it became a regular thing. A team would score a try to pull within two points (for example) and then instead of being able to kick off and exert some defensive pressure and build on that momebtum, the kick wouldn't go 10, and the other team had a free kick and a scoring opportunity. Often, that ended up being a try.

"I think guys see on TV national teams put up the short high ball and they want to do that," said Belmont Shore flyhalf/scrumhalf Dallen Stanford. "But you risk giving up that free kick. At the same time we liked pinning our opponents in their own end and putting pressure on them. So we kicked deep - you don't risk the ball not going ten, and you make them work harder to getupfield."

Seems like good advice.


7s not physical? Yeah, don't think so.

Warrior in a hopeless award cause may well go to Brendan Brown (with ball) who did all he could for a Chicago Griffins team that just didn't have all the pieces. By the end of Saturday he could barely walk.

Watch while I levitate this ball with my mind. Life's Benny Mateialona (right) performs his magic with Denver's Jody Kramer coming at him.

Chicago was something to behold, and coach Aaron Manheimer continues to make a name for himself with the teams he puts together. "Our guys are really about discipline and conditioning and team play," said club president Keith Brown. "And Aaron is doing a great job and I think can coach at any level."

Mike Palefau, above, for Aspen was superb for his club, but the player who was even more impressive was Belmont Shore's Peter Sio (below), who was a leading try-scorer and also played excellent defense.

"This whole weekend was all about team," said Sio, who gave props to coach james Walker and Matt Hawkins, who helped tweak the Shore defense. "Thanks to the coaching staff and to my teammates. They made it all happen."

Interesting to see Jason Pye play flyhalf, where he was impressive for Aspen and might prompt USA coach Al Caravelli to consider moving him infield from wing.

Meanwhile this was something of a last hurrah for Dallen Stanford, on ground having offloaded to Jason Townes. He can still play, but has retired from the USA team and dedicated himself to getting a title for Belmont Shore. Now what (apart from internet fame)? Maybe a coach's whistle?

Referee Aruna Ranaweera's tournament ended early with a nasty calf/Achilles injury. A shame for Ranaweera and also a loss to the USA's stable of referees.

Don't got him.

We weren't fans of Mark Roberts in the 2008 NA4. This year in 2009 7s? Yeah, he's pretty good.

Luke Waikamakama for Atlanta Old White. He led Riverside to titles in 2003 and 2004. Belmont Shore's Sinipati Uiagalelei was on that team too.

"The two teams are about the same," he said. "The intensity and the way we came together it's kind of the same. For both teams it was something we were working hard toward, so accomplishing it is pretty good."

- Alex Goff
Goff on Rugby | More articles in “Club Competitions” | More articles in “Sevens”