The USA Rugby Sevens, held every year in San Diego, is an annual must for anyone who believes that if the whole world got together and just partied, a rugby tournament would break out.
The rugby tournament is an excuse to embrace rampant and unchecked nationalism. Fans from around the world (Yes, even Uruguay) showed up in full effect to support 16 national teams.
The fan favorites were the Kenyan team who won over half the stadium with their 33-0 destruction of France on the first day. The French players will never forget the phrase “Runs like a Kenyan” because the Kenyan side simply outpaced. This game also featured the most exciting play in Rugby Sevens: an interception scored for a try. With the elegant style and quickness on both sides of the ball, it's no wonder the Kenyans are a fan favorite.
Other favorites include New Zealand “All-Blacks,” who along with South Africa's “Springboks” who are considered the best of World Rugby. While rugby teams like CSULB, usually field teams of 15, Rugby Sevens plays the game with only seven players, cuts the play down so the whole game lasts half and hour, and makes other rule changes to keep the event full of action. Oh, and usually rugby is not played in a baseball stadium like Petco Park.
One of the beautiful things about this tournament is that when a snooze fest erupts on the rugby pitch (Wales 57, Mexico 0), the event provides other distractions to amuse yourself or that friend you brought along and is now totally bewildered because he/she thought this was a soccer tournament.
I used the opportunity to eat at Lolita's, a San Diego culinary landmark. Lolitia's new location is just across from Petco Park. Lolita's is famous (or infamous depending who you ask) for their Carne Asada Fries. Carne Asada Fries are steak cut french fries with Carne Asada meat, gucamole, salsa, and sour cream on top. Carne Asada fries are to San Diego what deep-dish pizza is to Chicago - delightful calorie-enduced gluttony in every bite. Lolita's takes it one step further by creating the California burrito. That is to say they simply place Carne Asada fries in a flour tortilla. Stay classy, San Diego.
If you prefer to not use the re-admission ability of your ticket, there is a plenty of food in the stadium. In a small rugby carnival area, one can find Southern Hemisphere delights like Polynesian food and South American, rarely seen this side of the Tropic of Cancer. For novelty factor alone, I looked for Aussie Vegimite and was only slightly disappointed when I did not find one.
Other tents pitched rugby and associated products with plenty of giveaways, mini-pink rugby balls, USA rugby team temporary tattoos, and the ubiquitous National Guard recruiting stand which had really cool rugby balls that were disappointingly not available.
Turning my attention back to the field I realized that U.S. “Eagles” playing with home field advantage were guarding their nation to the best of their ability, and scoring some big wins. The next day they surprised many by besting the Kenyans in the next round and defeating them before falling to the Argentine Pumas in the semi-finals.
Argentina’s final match was a win against their most hated rival: the English. The Pumas were down at the half and were able to bounce back in the second half with two tries and stiff defense. The Argentinians won the match, 19-14. If you had a moment to check the sports history you would realize of course Argentina win capped their second USA Rugby Sevens champions ever, by then, though, most fans were half way home or going for a second California burrito at Lolita's.
"This is the best sports photo I ever took" -Joe "Nixon" writes Rugby for the PlayerPress and his own Rugby Blog on Ultimate Rugby Sevens...which is like Myspace for Rugby Fans