Eight things about this year’s USA Sevens Rugby tournament

United States player is hoisted high for a catch versus South Africa during the USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.
Photo: L.E. Baskow
Chris Bitonti

1. This is my fifth straight year attending the tournament, and I’ve never seen it so full (an estimated 75,000-plus fans at Sam Boyd Stadium for the three-day competition). Saturday, in particular, is a blur of packed stands and costumed characters. One unfortunate consequence of the popularity: an increased line at the meat-pie stand.

2. Football hooligans still reign supreme in the chanting department, but I’m hearing plenty of spirited jeers from sauced ruggers. The most memorable is to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” cheering “Jesus can’t play rugby ’cuz he has holes in his hands.”

3. You could base a fast and delirious drinking game on the repurposing of the American flag as apparel. One drink for Spandex leggings, two for male Speedo, three for entire face and beard painting and finish your drink for full tuxedo and top hat riding an animatronic bald eagle.

4. Besides cheering for the U.S., I pick my teams using a weighted system based on jersey design, flag aesthetics and proximity to other fans. It’s a very scientific process that can easily be swayed by the quality of their food stand in the courtyard.

5. In contrast to full 15-on-15 rugby league play, Sevens opens the pitch by whittling participants down to seven per team for two seven-minute halves. It makes for higher scores, longer runs, faster matches and increased excitement.

6. The U.S. finished in a respectable fourth place this year, even if we did get destroyed by South Africa, 31-0, in the third-place match. Seeing the States play for a meaningful place on Sunday was an added bonus.

7. Fiji took the championship over New Zealand on Sunday in an exciting victory. It’s always extra enjoyable when one of the Pacific island nations competes for the title, because of the large, diehard fan presence.

8. Throughout the weekend, the actual on-field rugby comes second to the overall experience—being able to wrap yourself in a favorite flag or costume and share drinks with a community focused less on the outcome of a match than the enjoyment of the sport.

Tags: Sports, Opinion
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