USA retained their title in Las Vegas with a 27-0 victory over Samoa in the Cup final and become the outright leaders on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019.
Three scintillating days of action at the Sam Boyd Stadium saw the home team finish top and reiterate their credentials as potential series winners of the season.
After four consecutive Cup Final appearances, finishing with four losses, Mike Friday’s outfit was willed on by a packed house.
The fervent home support brought out the best in the side and the result was the retention of their tournament crown in Las Vegas.
Dominating, sharp finish
Despite losing Danny Barrett to injury at the end of the second day, the outfit dominated the Cup final with physicality in defence and sharp finishing in attack. In contrast Samoa, playing in their first Cup final since 2016, didn’t settle and went into the interval 10-0 down.
The USA upped the tempo in the second seven minutes and never looked like losing.
They scored five tries in the final with two coming from the HSBC Player of the Final Ben Pinkelman and kept their opponents scoreless.
Speaking after the victory, USA captain Madison Hughes shared his feelings of excitement and pride after their recent Cup final losses.
“If we are going to win one of them, then the one at home was the one we wanted. It feels so good, having missed out on it last year when I was up in the box (injured). So, now to be here on the field feels pretty good,” said Hughes.
“I am so proud. That final showed that the first day didn’t really go the way we wanted it to but there was such good fight in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. It feels pretty amazing to be out here now.”
Pinkleman added: “It was amazing. This is the exact moment we wanted. We had it last year and we didn’t want anything more than to be right back here, to be surrounded by everyone storming the field. It’s a great feeling.”
After five rounds, and at the halfway point of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019, the tournament victory creates a five-point cushion for the USA at the top of the standings. New Zealand are in second place, Fiji sit in third and England are currently in fourth, just one point ahead of South Africa.
At the end of all ten rounds the top four teams will confirm their places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Twelve teams will compete for the Olympic medals in from July 27 to August 1, 2019 at Tokyo Stadium and Japan are the only side currently qualified due to automatic qualification as the host nation.
All 16 teams that took to the stage in Las Vegas will reconvene for the next leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Canada on March 9 and 10, 2019.
Sheevas Dayal is Rugby Correspondent of Indian Newslink. He lives in Auckland.