Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
SINGHA PREMIERSHIP 7s!
The Rugby Channel has a full slate of oval entertainment for you this weekend with complete coverage of the Singha Premiership 7s on Friday and Saturday, plus three championship finals from the Can-Am tournament on Sunday. All you have to do to watch every minute of the action is to become a subscriber to The Rugby Channel for less than a single dollar per week.
Last weekend The Rugby Channel continued our Summer of Sevens with a start to finish broadcast of the Santa Monica 7s from Southern California. The tourney had men’s and women’s national qualifiers and a men’s social division.
The biggest question in the men’s qualifier was which team would join Belmont Shore in going to the Club 7s Championships. Santa Monica and OMBAC were the two favorites to earn the second Pacific South berth and eventually it was the host Dolphins who not only booked their ticket to Blaine, Minnesota but also resoundingly won the tournament, beating Belmont Shore in the final.
Both Belmont Shore and Santa Monica will face some stiff opposition when they travel to Minnesota in two weeks but both sides have plenty of the raw athleticism necessary to be serious contenders there. Between now and then there will have to be some difficult squad decisions made as both teams weigh up their options in choosing which players will represent them with a national title up for grabs.
The women’s division was dominated by the San Diego Surfers, competing with two teams as the Surfas Kittens and Surfas Squirrels. The first team, the Kittens, didn’t allow a try to be scored against them and easily won the final against Santa Monica. San Diego is filled with top-level talent and will go to Minnesota as one of the favored clubs to win it all.
The Social Division crown was won by the Gazelles of Belmont Shore by beating the Las Vegas Irish. The Gazelles are mostly older players and they play a power first gameplan that was highly effective against all-comers on the pitch at Santa Monica High School.
If you’d like to see highlights of the finals matches from the tournament, check out TRC Report #61. Or you can use our Video On Demand feature to watch any of the 23 matches that are available whenever you have time to give them a look!
This year’s event has been significantly modified from last year’s series and I’m guessing that as a result, the excitement level is going to be ratcheted up several notches. Previously, there were satellite tournaments that also included some Welsh teams and involved qualifying for the last tourney. Now it’s all twelve of the Premiership sides in a two-day Olympic style competition.
Friday will see pool play take place with four groups of three sides playing in a round robin to determine who will advance to the Cup, Plate, and Bowl brackets on Saturday. Group A has defending champs Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, and Leicester Tigers. Group B contains Harlequins, Gloucester, and newly promoted London Irish. Group C features Bath, Sale Sharks, and Worcester Warriors. Group D is made up of Saracens, Exeter Chiefs, and the hosts, Northampton Saints.
What makes this tourney such compelling viewing is that it isn’t really made up of true sevens teams that are focused only on that version of the game. Instead, the majority of the participants are younger players who are signed to the Premiership clubs and looking to make a splash at Franklin’s Gardens and thus increase their chances of solidifying a spot with their full teams this season. Many of the players are coming directly from preseason training camps.
Most of the squads have a fair mix of recently promoted Academy future stars and some experienced sevens performers who are transitioning to fifteens, with an occasional relatively older (mid 20s!) player to provide steadiness. For many of the youngest, this might be their first time playing on live TV or in a major stadium in anything other than a curtain raiser. The sheer enthusiasm of youth makes this worth watching.
The first match on Friday will have 2016 Champions Wasps taking on Newcastle Falcons and the last will see hosts Northampton Saints against Saracens.
SINGHA PREMIERSHIP 7s – Saturday, July 29 at 10:00 AM ET
Once the quarterfinalists are determined on Friday, the intensity level will go up accordingly on Saturday. Because this event is becoming much more watched at home and abroad and its profile accordingly lifted, the teams who make it into the Cup quarters and semis really, really want to win it all.
Last year’s knockout rounds had plenty of drama with comebacks and match winners galore, culminating in a final that was an absolute thriller. Exeter and Wasps battled right to the very end and the fans in attendance and those watching LIVE on The Rugby Channel were treated to a spectacular display of sevens rugby.
I expect the 2017 edition to be even more hard-fought and action-packed because it’s essentially the first hit out of the Premiership campaign and every team and player taking part is out to make a statement of intent. You won’t want to miss a second of these crucial matches so if you haven’t subscribed to The Rugby Channel yet, now is a great time to do so!
This Sunday The Rugby Channel will bring you the Women’s Final, the Over 35s Final, and the Club Final from North America’s largest tournament. The Can-Am tourney has over a hundred teams competing on sixteen different pitches in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, New York and is known as a destination that you definitely must go to at some point in your rugby lifetime.
This is the 44th edition of what started as an eight-team event that was far from being welcomed in these mountain towns but that is now a major economic contributor to the area and deeply involved in the communities. The Can-Am supports local youth rugby and gives scholarships to high school and collegiate athletes as well as running various camps and clinics.
The first championship match broadcast LIVE on The Rugby Channel on Sunday from the Sparks Athletics Complex on the campus of North Country Community College will be the Women, then the Over 35s, and will wrap up with the Club finale. The Can-Am regularly draws a very strong field so whichever teams end up in these finals, they are certain to be high-quality competitors with silverware as their ultimate goal.
This week’s best segment is undoubtedly the one that showcases the Flying Fijians preparing for their Pacific Nations Cup match against Samoa. It’s a nice change to see the human side of the players having fun away from the game, not just their performances on the field.
Fiji have now qualified in Pool D along with Australia, Wales, and Georgia in what is shaping up to be the most competitive group in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
There are also pieces about women’s rugby in the United Arab Emirates, highlights from the Rugby Africa Gold Cup, a nice cameo by American Alev Kelter talking about her love of the sport, and footage from a Hong Kong vs Japan women’s test. You can’t go wrong spending a half an hour watching this show each and every week.
If you’ve never heard of the Chatham Islands, here’s your chance to get up to speed. Grassroots Rugby sent former All Black Jock Ross out 400 nautical miles east of New Zealand to cover a memorial match there for a rugby team from the islands that disappeared nearly a century ago. Only in New Zealand would a place that has only 600 residents still be able to play a full rugby match every year in tribute to their lost compatriots.
The feature that you absolutely must watch, however, is about Cliff McAuley who has been a member of the Southern Rugby Club in Dunedin for 75 years. He joined as a 15-year old and has been a player, referee, administrator, and is now a life member at the age of 90 with lots of stories to tell and fond memories of his three quarters of a century with Southern.
A Sevens tourney with some of the best talent in the world and a North American institution that promises three fierce title clashes. That’s what’s on tap this weekend on The Rugby Channel and if you don’t Subscribe Now, you can’t watch it. Do yourself a favor, spend the virtually insignificant dollar per week and get yourself some top of the line rugby to be enjoyed not just this week but all year long!