The destination of the men’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 title remains in the balance after leaders South Africa failed to make it through to the Cup quarter-finals after a pulsating day one in Los Angeles.
Heading into the last of nine tournaments stretching back to last November, South Africa had 124 points, Australia 122, Argentina 118 and Fiji 104 to leave them all in the hunt for the overall prize.
Australia, Argentina and Fiji all remain in with a chance to be crowned Series champions come Sunday evening.
On day one, in a Pool B stacked full of quality, South Africa could only finish third on Saturday behind New Zealand and the hosts USA who were impressive on home turf.
Australia, Argentina and Fiji all safely navigated through their pools into the Cup last eight.
There is a lot of water to go under the bridge on Sunday, but the door is well and truly open for Australia and Argentina who will be on red alert.
In the Cup last eight on day two, Australia will play Kenya, Fiji will take on the USA, Samoa will face Argentina and New Zealand and Ireland will clash.
South Africa will play Wales first up on day two in a ninth place quarter-final.
Let’s round up an amazing day of sevens rugby from day one…
Pool A: Oz-some Australia joined by Argentina in progressing
Overall title contenders Australia and Argentina won their first Pool A games with ease.
Matías Osadczuk, Luciano Gonzalez (2), Joaquin de la Vega, Rodrigo Isgro, Mateo Graziano and Franco Rossetto were the try scorers as Argentina thumped a young Spanish squad 52-7.
Australia then ran in nine tries to get the better of Japan 61-0.
Josh Turner and Matthew Gonzalez led the way with respective try doubles.
Japan then got a win that would help them to finish third in the pool.
They saw off Spain 33-0 and Taichi Yoshizawa (2), Timo Fiti Sufia, Moeki Fukushi and Taiga Ishida crossed the try line with Taiga Ishida converting three of them.
Then came the big game, Australia versus Argentina.
Converted tries from German Schulz and Matías Osadczuk had Argentina 14-5 up at half-time, but the Australians came back fighting.
Dietrich Roache and Maurice Longbottom scored tries - with two conversions from the former - came in the second period as they won 19-14. Henry Hutchison had scored their first half try.
Argentina made sure of second spot in the pool with a 34-12 victory over Japan last up.
Rodrigo Isgro, Matías Osadczuk, Tobias Wade, Franco Rossetto, Mateo Graziano and Alejo Lavayen were their try scorers.
Australia’s brilliant day ended with a 54-0 win over Spain. Corey Toole, Dietrich Roache and Nathan Lawson bagged try doubles in that one.
- The stakes: Australia have not missed the Cup quarter-finals in 2022. No other team on the series has achieved this. This streak extends to 12 tournaments in a row, dating back to Hamilton in 2020.
- Meanwhile, after medalling in each of the first four tournaments, Argentina have finished on the podium just once across the past four events. USA is their most successful location, playing their most cup finals here of any location (4) and two of their three all-time Cup final wins being played here. But they did not reach the Cup quarter-finals at the last Los Angeles tournament in 2020.
Pool B: NZ and USA through to quarters
The tone for day one was set in the very first tie when the USA turned on the style to get the better of South Africa in Pool B.
David Still, Joe Schroeder and Perry Baker all scored tries converted by Lucas Lacamp as they came out on top 21-7, Sakoyisa Makata with the South African try.
Moses Leo, Che Clarke, Caleb Tangitau and Akuila Rokolisoa then all went over as New Zealand began with a 26-5 victory over Canada.
South Africa then led 17-5 over Canada at the interval, but had to withstand a fightback before coming through 22-17.
Muller du Plessis, Siviwe Soyizwapi (2) and JC Pretorius scored the South African tries, but efforts from Josiah Morra, Brock Webster and Anton Ngongo made it close.
The crowd were very excited ahead of the New Zealand-USA tie, but the former put in a very professional performance.
Tone Ng Shiu, Lewis Ormond, Akuila Rokolisoa, Caleb Tangitau and Ngarohi McGarvey-Black bagged their tries in a 33-12 triumph.
The USA dusted themselves off after that one and made sure to make it two wins out of three by edging out a dogged Canada 26-17.
David Still, Joe Schroeder, Maceo Brown and Malacchi Esdale scored USA’s tries with Cody Melphy (2) and Steve Tomasin adding conversions.
Tries from Akuila Rokolisoa, Che Clarke and Lewis Ormond - plus one conversion by the first mentioned - helped then lead New Zealand to a 17-14 victory over South Africa.
All of which left New Zealand and USA progressing through to play for the Cup and South Africa to battle it out for fifth spot.
- The stakes: New Zealand has won two Cup titles out of the 17 events in USA. This is tied for the fewest Cup titles at any location on the Series for New Zealand. Since the 2015-16 Series, New Zealand have rarely featured in the Cup final across the last three events of the season. Paris in 2019 and London in 2022 are the only Cup finals they have played in this period from the seventh/eighth round onwards. They have not made a Cup final in USA since 2015 in Las Vegas where they lost to Fiji 19-35.
- Meanwhile, USA has made the Cup quarter-finals in six of eight Series tournaments this year, winning just one where they went on to lose the Cup final for their best finish of the year in Dubai. They have made the Cup final twice on home soil, winning on both occasions. They have made the Cup quarter finals eight times and went on to the Cup semi-finals six times.
Pool C: Three from three Fiji and Ireland through
In a very tight first game Ireland, who were fifth overall heading into this tournament, saw off France 14-12.
Terry Kennedy scored a converted try in the first half and Chay Mullins a seven pointer late on in the second half. Before Mullins’ try France led 12-7, but they could not hold on.
Fiji have medalled in their last four tournaments and started well against Wales.
Viwa Naduvalo (2), Joseva Talacolo and Waisea Nacuqu scored their tries as they defeated the Welsh 28-12.
Terry Kennedy, Andrew Smith (2), Mark Roche, Niall Comerford, Aaron O'Sullivan (2) and Chay Mullins scored tries as Ireland let loose next up and defeated Wales 46-12.
Fiji led 19-12 after an amazing first half against France before further tries from Waisea Nacuqu and Joseva Talacolo got the former home 29-19.
Wales then played slightly better against France in their final pool match, but tries from Jonathan Laugel, Pierre Mignot, Nelson Epee and Tavite Veredamu saw France come out on top 26-12.
In the pool decider, converted tries from Waisea Nacuqu and Kaminieli Rasaku had Fiji 14-0 up at half-time against Ireland.
Harry McNulty’s seven pointer gave Ireland hope, but a converted effort from Iowane Teba with two minutes to go gave them a 21-14 triumph as they topped the pool.
- The stakes: Fiji has won three Cup finals in USA, the latest happening in Las Vegas in 2016. They have made seven Cup finals out of 17 World Series tournaments hosted here. They have been the form team since returning to the Series in Singapore and two uncharacteristic performances in Dubai of 4th and 9th place finishes early in the year. Two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the past four tournaments saw them rocket up to fourth place on the Series standings.
- Ireland sits in 5th place on the standings with 92 points, 12 points below Fiji in 4th and eight points above USA in 6th on just their second year on the World Series as a core team. 5th place would be their best finish on the Series after finishing 10th in 2020 and 6th in 2021 (two-tournament pandemic effected season). This is their second Series appearance in Los Angeles after placing 6th in 2020.
Pool D: Samoa and Kenya one, two
Scotland-England clashes in all sports are always tasty and the Pool D opener was no different here.
Jordan Edmunds scored two tries and Callum Young one while Kaleem Barreto kicked two conversions as the former came out on top 19-5.
After decent showings in Toulouse and London, Samoa had their eyes on the Cup last eight and they started their Los Angeles campaign well.
They got the better of Kenya 33-14 with their tries coming from Vaa Apelu Maliko (2), Uaina Sione, Paul Scanlan and Taunuu Niulevaea.
Kenya bounced back from that loss next up by seeing off England 19-14.
The tries for Kenya came from Willy Ambaka (2) and Billy Odhiambo with Samuel Oliech kicking two conversions.
Samoa backed up their first win with another over Scotland.
Vaa Apelu Maliko (2) Steve Onosai and Motu Opetai bagged their tries in a 22-7 victory.
Kenya took heart from the win over England and tries from Nelson Oyoo, Alvin Otieno, Vincent Onyala and Billy Odhiambo got them past Scotland 20-10 and into the Cup quarter-finals.
They were second in the pool behind unbeaten Samoa who rounded day one off with a 31-5 win over England.
Uaina Sione (2), Vaovasa Afa Sua, Owen Niue and Motu Opetai scored Samoa’s five tries here.
- The stakes: Samoa has finished fourth at each of the past three events since returning to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Singapore. They have not medalled at any event since winning silver in Las Vegas in 2019, 22 tournaments ago. They reached the Cup final in Las Vegas in 2019, losing to home team USA 0-27. They finished in 11th place last time visiting Los Angeles in 2020.
- The performance is real for Kenya. After earning 22 points combined across both rounds in Dubai, Kenya have only earned 17 competition points across their past six events, including just one point over the last three-straight tournaments. Kenya has won just one of their last 14 matches on the Series, dating back to a pool match in Vancouver.
Now we are all getting ready for Sunday funday…