Quest for Gold Sevens – Day Two

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The GB Sevens team managed a 12-12 draw in the last game they played against the USA, so can take a measure of comfort from their performances.

But this finale revealed the shortcomings that still betray the effort. After going 0-7 down, Meg Jones switched back to the right where she found Emma Uren. As the winger threatened the line, Kristen Thomas saw yellow for a high tackle.

That allowed the British to manufacture two tries, the second of which Holly Aitchison converted magnificently from close to the left touch-line. For the first time in two days the USA was behind, 5-12. On each occasion the scorer had an opponent wrapped around her; a true overlap had not been created.

GB should have put the game to bed, but yet another scoring pass finished in touch, not in a winger’s hands. From the scrum the USA built a move that stretched from deep defence to the posts. Lauren Doyle restored parity.

Result 12-12

Overall: USA 3 wins; 1 draw

Some Thoughts

One of the many ingredients the Sevens game requires is power; this was the Eagles’ obvious advantage. Alongside great pace and a growing togetherness the squad Chris Clark is assembling includes a number of players who take a lot of hauling down.

This is not a strong point of the squad Scott Forrest has picked. No denying the skill factor, but the Eagles proved that a good big’un will normally get the better of a good littl’un. In the only contests that mattered in Los Angeles, against the Americans, the disparity was there to be seen. You would much rather see Jasmine Joyce with ball in hand rounding a helpless opponent than having to haul Cheta Emba and Co. down.

Both teams knew they were very short of match practice. As Ilona Maher said after the tournament: it’s one thing tackling your team-mates endlessly in practice; quite another tackling strangers you’ll meet only rarely.

In the first tight game GB were leading the USA when a final move involving Alev Kelter, Ilona Maher and Kristi Kirshe showed the British problem. They hauled down player after player, but not fast enough to prevent telling off-loads. In Emba and Kristen Thomas the US have players famed for their pace; but their ability to force openings is another plus.
By contrast GB found it very hard creating the gaps they knew should be there. The best ‘dodgers’ as they were known long ago, Meg Jones and Helena Rowland, hardly once managed to make a clean break as they had repeatedly done at St. George’s Park. The old heads, Abbie Brown, Alex Matthews, Holly Aitchison and Mo Hunt, worked very hard to point the ship in the right direction, but had limited success.

First-phase possession is crucial in Sevens. All through the two days GB were iffy at the kick-off. There was no Emily Scarratt to reclaim her own team’s kick, but it was disturbing how rarely GB claimed the ball when facing it. The scrum was better though not 100% secure. With the ball being thrown straight into the second row – pardon the analogy – it should have come out the right way more often and more quickly.

The other high-ranked teams on view in Tokyo won’t all be blessed physically like the Americans, but have enjoyed far more competitive togetherness than Team GB. Until national systems can be realigned (RFU, SRU and WRU) and a pan-British strategy put into operation, their chances at future Olympics will go on being impaired.

For that to happen the best 7s players from the three nations must all be willing to devote themselves more or less exclusively to Sevens over a prolonged period.