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This past weekend offered the ninth USA Sevens tournament in Las Vegas and it's enlightening to return in time to 2010 to review the first event played in that venue.
The USA-based event started out in Los Angeles (under the aegis of USA Rugby) where it ran for three years before being transferred to Jon Prusmack. Then, the competition moved to San Diego where, for three-years, it was played inside PetCo Park, the baseball stadium of the San Diego Padres. Finally, it shifted to Las Vegas inside Sam Boyd Stadium where the University of Las Vegas plays its football games.
For rugby fans that had come to Los Angeles or San Diego, the first glance inside Sam Boyd was a welcome relief, a bowl stadium with clear sight lines to the pitch. For United World Sports, the event organizers, the Saturday crowd surpassed the attendance record of prior San Diego days (40,000 total over the weekend). Additionally, three distinct sections filled with colorful and enthusiastic flag-waving fans of ex-Pats from Samoa, Fiji, and Kenya.
Samoa won the Cup title with a resounding 33-12 victory over New Zealand, the win avenging an earlier loss to the Kiwis in the finals of the Dubai Sevens. South Africa defeated Fiji for the Plate 12-7.
In the Bowl contest, the USA, which had gone 1-2 in pool play (a 25-5 win over Canada), won the next two matches against Guyana and followed with an upset victory over Argentina 19-14. The Eagles defeated France 28-17 to claim their first Bowl title.
While fans watched on the stadium's Jumbotron, Eagle captain Kevin Swiryn, engagement ring in hand, proposed to Lauren Shaughnessy from the USA Women's Sevens.
The party ambiance in Las Vegas was a hit, starting out Thursday night when the sixteen-teams in kit participated in a sound and light show downtown on Fremont Street.
Las Vegas welcomed the USA Sevens, offering its multitude of amusements and entertainments. The city lived up to its fun reputation, and, most importantly, showcased a first-class rugby event. From 2010, the Las Vegas Sevens would continue to attract more fans annually, and be voted one of three best-run World Rugby 7s events.
Viva Las Vegas!