Up and Under is a weekly feature on Americas Rugby News which reviews the best and worst from games involving the Americas teams over the previous week.
Canada made history with their first ever HSBC Sevens Series tournament victory as they defeated the USA by 26-19 in a tense Cup Final to cap an incredible final day in Singapore. The team did it the hard way, upsetting New Zealand, England, and finally beating the Eagles for the first time since 2015 to take the title. It represents a stunning turnaround for a Canadian side that failed to qualify for the Olympic Games and did not reach a single Cup Quarter Final during the 2016-17 season. The results see Canada rocket up to 7th spot overall, leapfrogging both Scotland and Argentina.
The early hours of Sunday were bittersweet for USA rugby players and supporters. Seeing the team defeated in the final in Singapore was rough. On the flip-side losing to Canada does bring with it a means to not be altogether sad. This was a first-ever for men’s rugby – an all-North American Final in the HSBC Sevens Series. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Crushing Australia 40-7 put the USA into the final. Earlier they had downed Olympic champions Fiji 24-19. The final placing means the USA leads the way for the Americas in 5th spot overall with two tournaments to go.
Nathan Hirayama, Justin Douglas, Perry Baker, Stephen Tomasin, Danny Barrett
In terms of individuals there were five who were selected by World Rugby as being among the best in Singapore. Nathan Hirayama, undoubtedly the player of the tournament dazzled with his footwork to score 41 points in all including 21 against New Zealand in the Quarter Final. In-form speedster Justin Douglas was also rewarded for exceptional attacking play that opened holes in every game. The USA once again contribute Perry Baker, who along with teammate Stephen Tomasin scored eight tries over the course of the weekend. Joining Tomasin in the forwards is powerhouse teammate Danny Barrett.
Facundo Isa, Marcelo Bosch
Unable to play for Los Pumas, Facundo Isa and Marcelo Bosch gave a reminder to the UAR of their value. Isa ran in two tries in the final 10 minutes as Lyon defeated Top 14 leaders La Rochelle. Over in England, Bosch was the hero scoring the match winner for Saracens who faced the Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. Neither Leonardo Senatore nor Matías Orlando had the same impact for Los Jaguares against the Bulls on Saturday. In other news, Isa has been named to play for the Barbarians against England next month. Meanwhile Sergio Parisse and Robert Barbieri both also scored in wins in Europe.
Preparation for facing the Bulls did not start well for Los Jaguares. Last Monday Matías Alemanno was placed in doubt for the match and by the following morning he was officially out. This saw him flying home and Ignacio Larrague jumping on a flight from Buenos Aires. Larrague would not arrive in time to be ready for consideration. This saw No 8 Benjamín Macome covering second-row. Having partnered Alemanno against the Sharks, Kremer was joined by Guido Petti against the Bulls. Kremer made serious meters for Los Jaguares, including one tremendous half field break. He is not only a Puma in waiting but is a realistic starter against England and Georgia in June.
Rugby Belize has taken another step forward in their administrative ambitions with their acceptance as full members of the Belize Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association. The decision opens the door for possible inclusion in the two major sporting events and also to consideration for World Rugby membership. A memo to Rugby Belize founder Tony Gillings dated March 27 confirmed the news. “After an executive meeting held on Wednesday, March 22, the Committee has agreed to approve your request for Rugby Belize to be officially affiliated with the Belize Olympic & Commonwealth Games Association. In this regard, the Belize Olympic Committee will recognize Rugby Belize as its National Governing Body.”
The fabulous career of Marcos Ayerza has ended. The 34-year-old Argentine Loose Head prop announced his retirement with immediate effect last week. He did so after having played almost 250 times for the Leicester Tigers over an 11 year period. Ayerza joined Leicester in 2006 and went on to play in two Champions Cup and six consecutive Aviva Premiership finals. His stellar international career saw him earn 66 caps and appear in three Rugby World Cups. This included an appearance in the historic Bronze Final winning effort in 2007. His final test came in the 2015 Semi Final defeat against Australia. He is the 10th most capped Puma of all time.
Los Jaguares failed to perform against the Bulls. The Argentine side flopped to their biggest defeat of 2017, losing 26-13 in Pretoria. The Bulls were deserved winners. The home side played the conditions much better than did Los Jaguares. Evident was the familiar problem of Los Pumas’ discipline not transferring over to Super Rugby. In the first half alone Los Jaguares conceded 7 penalties. The team also, once again, had a player yellow carded. The opposition did not. Los Jaguares remain in South Africa for one more week. Their next match sees them taking on the Lions in Johannesburg on Friday. Without improvement Los Jaguares will not come away with a victory.
Bristol and Grenoble lost matches in England and France this weekend. For both it meant disaster as neither club can gain enough points from remaining matches to avoid relegation. Grenoble joins Bayonne in falling to the Pro D2 while Bristol is to play in the RFU Championship. Argentine prop Gastón Cortes and USA center Thretton Palamo are among the impacted players.
The career of Patricio Albacete at Toulouse is coming to an end. After 11 years at the club he will be moving on in June. His destination remains unconfirmed. Throughout his years in the south-western French city the club has featured in every Champions Cup campaign. This included winning the 2010 title. He also won the Top 14 in 2008, 2011 and 2012. Toulouse has been strong at all times. This has now changed with the club 12th in the Top 14 and eliminated from play-off’s and Champions Cup contention. The red-and-blacks sunk to a 10-8 home defeat to Racing 92, ultimately ending their season. Lucky for them Grenoble and Bayonne are the relegated clubs.
World Rugby Vice President Agustín Pichot has officially backed expanding the Six Nations. The former Pumas captain wants Georgia and other Tier 2 countries to have the opportunity of playing in the Six Nations. At present the European competition is restricted to six competitors – England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. There is no danger of relegation for the bottom placed side. Pichot deems this set up to be flawed and that the decision makers need to give other countries the opportunity to participate in order to help rugby grow. He went on record slamming the set-up and calling for change: “countries must realize that we must grow the game.”