The International Rugby Board Sevens Series has produced its fifth winner in as many tournaments, at the 2013 USA Sevens event in Las Vegas.
Our own Bleacher Report preview had talked about the unpredictability of the Series this season, but the Cup victory by South Africa at Sam Boyd Stadium made sure that the surprises continued to arrive in spades.
The three day event began with one of the more unexpected and astounding collapses in the history of the circuit, as England—the team that had hoisted the Cup only days ago in New Zealand—was relegated to the Bowl competition.
There, with approximately the same roster that stood on the winner's podium in Wellington, England was ingloriously routed by France by a score of 40 - 7.
With the majority of the series stops already complete, the English now sit in 9th place; a standing that would have seemed unfathomable to most observers last summer.
If the Las Vegas event was difficult to endure for England, it was a glorious moment for Canada; a team our own preview singled out for big possibilities.
Canada Coach Geraint John was forced to do without a key number of his regulars, as both Sean Duke and Phil Mack were out of the line-up due to injury, but still the Canadians pressed on. Defeating the then second-ranked Kenyans on Friday, Canada went on to best the United States and Scotland on Sunday to take home the USA Sevens Plate.
It was one of their best finishes in Series history.
Two Pacific Island nations—Samoa and Fiji—met each other in the third place game, with Samoa earning the win and the 17 Series points that went with it. A look a the IRB standings following the weekend's actions sees Samoa five points ahead of their Fijian rivals, with both teams holding one tournament victory this season.
South Africa's win may seem like a terrible moment for New Zealand. Indeed, the 40 - 21 Cup final defeat was a poor performance by the Kiwis and vaulted the South Africans into second place in the competition's rankings; however, the all-important math is begging to accumulate.
Even though New Zealand—no doubt like so may of last weekend's tourists—may have come up short in Las Vegas, they are now superbly positioned to take home yet another IRB Sevens Series crown.
Taking home 19 Series points from the USA Sevens, New Zealand now have a seemingly insurmountable 23 point lead in the standings. At this point, the New Zealanders need only finish in the top-four at each of the remaining tournaments to clinch victory; something they have done consistently throughout each of the first five IRB Series stops.
The IRB Sevens Series now moves on to its sixth leg, in Hong Kong, on March 22nd.
USA Sevens Results:
Cup Final: New Zealand 21 - South Africa 40
3rd Place Game: Fiji 31 - Samoa 36
Plate Final: Scotland 5 - Canada 22
Bowl Final: Argentina 12 - France 17
Shield Final: Uruguay 0 - Australia 41
Click here to see the current IRB Series standings.
Jeff Hull is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. To follow the author on Twitter click on the link below.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!