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The Kentucky Derby is a 1 mile 1/4 race or nine furlongs. And nine represents the number of IRB worldwide sevens tournaments in 2015. So, it is a long race to the finish for the eventual winner, and an equally long distance for the other three nations that will finish second, third, and fourth, to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The initial event, last week’s Gold Coast in Australia, witnessed some surprising results that made it different from other first tournament beginnings.
The most startling result saw New Zealand being beaten early and not making the two semi-final games, leaving the All Blacks to settle for a Plate victory. It’s important though to remember that New Zealand have won 12 out of the past 15 sevens events (Samoa, South Africa, and Fiji won the others), and there is plenty of time in the next eight contests for the All Blacks to improve their point total.
Fiji looked the cream of the crop, winning all six matches, and defeating Pacific Ocean rival Samoa 31-24 in an exciting final. These are two nations without much Olympic history, and a 2016 trip to Brazil with a medal gained would add luster to these islands.
England finished third, beating South Africa soundly 19-0. This same Springbok’s side were the victors over New Zealand in this year’s competitive Commonwealth Games.
Another surprise were Argentina that won its Pool with three wins and nine points, and lost to the All Blacks for the Plate 36-21. The Pumas have been up and down for many years, sometimes displaying top form, and other times, not.
The point totals after the first furlong in the race to the championship are as follows:
South Africa 15
New Zealand 13
Finally, the Canadians had great hopes for the team after 2013/2014’s sixth place finish. But none of that form surfaced in Australia. And, the team lost a close battle to the USA in overtime. For both nations, this was the memorable take away.
Dubai is next on December 6 and 7.