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That was the second thing – they didn’t just get what they wanted, they got it by the end of the first day.
The third thing? They kept playing, and kept playing better. Face with a
situation where they could now phone Sunday in – Scotland was in the bottom
eight and USA in the top eight, no amount of losses would hurt the Eagles –
the United States team raised their game and won the Plate for the second
tournament in a row.
This season has been a good one, and a scary one, for the USA team. They end up reaching the Cup Quarterfinals four times, something they have never done. In fact, since the World Series Circuit started in 1999-2000, the Eagles had made the Cup Quarterfinals nine times before this season.
Now, if you’re pessimistic, you might point out that this season the Eagles
were a bit lucky. In South Africa, after all, they had an easy pool, with
Portugal, Canada, and Zimbabwe. And true, that wasn’t a pool of
world-beaters, they will won two matches.
In Las Vegas, the Eagles made the quarterfinals despite being 1-2, because Spain and Australia were 1-2, as well, and the USA went through on points difference.
In Tokyo, the USA finished 1-1-1, and needed Wales to beat Kenya to go through. OK, so all of those were a little tight.
But at the same time, in Tokyo the Eagles ended up just losing to New
Zealand, and beating Fiji and Scotland to win the Plate. And then in
Glasgow, the Americans won two games, against Russia and France, to easily
finish 2nd in the pool, before beating Fiji again, and Argentina
to take the Plate.
So, maybe luck had something to do with a couple of those positive results, but of late you can’t see any luck in it at all. The USA is just playing better rugby.
So how is it that they can make more top eight finishes than every before,
and be in danger of relegation? That is partly due to the fact that more
teams are making the Cup Quarters. The parity means that instead of a few
teams with 100 or more points, and a few teams with 30-60, we have a glut
of teams in the World Series with 50-90 points.
The USA may have made four quarterfinals, but so did Kenya (ranked 5th). Wales (6th) made six, France (7th) four, Argentina (9th) four also, and the same for Australia (10th) and Canada (11th).
So why is it that those teams made the top four as many times as the Eagles, but the Eagles are 12th? And why is it that England, who made the top eight only twice, sits at 8th with 75 points, compared to the USA’s 59?
Two reasons: dealing with failure, and dealing with success.
In the four tournaments where the USA has not done well, they have generally done very poorly. In those four tournaments they finished 14th, 12th, 15th and 12th.
Of the teams that rank 5th through 11th, that is the
worst performance on Day Two of a bad weekend. Look at it with average
points. The best Day Two teams on a bad weekend are England and Argentina
(6.0 pts per tournament). All of those teams average 4.3 to 5.0 points. The
(They weren’t the worst team on Day Two overall; that would have to be Portugal, currently 0-16 on knockout round games this season.)
What that means is, when things weren’t going well, they continued to not go well on Day Two, while England and Argentina, to their great credit, fought, scraped, bit and clawed their way to get the most points they could. England won two Bowls that way.
And then on the other side of the ledger, the USA failed twice to convert a place in the Cup Quarterfinals into anything more than the minimum ten points.
What was good about Tokyo and Glasgow was that the Eagles finished well. Now they need to learn to do that when they are emotionally down.
So the Eagles deserve their place. They made four Cup Quarterfinals, and did superbly well in the last two tournaments to keep playing and win the Plate twice. Back for 2013-2013, they will have to take a lesson from that, and from England, and keep fighting for wins even when the first day went against them.