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Self-evident truth: Rugby sevens perfect for Las Vegas

Now that the globetrotting HSBC USA Sevens World Series of Rugby is coming off yet another wildly successful installment at Sam Boyd Stadium, we may hold these rugby truths to be self-evident:

That the rugby ball has a funny shape, but that people around here no longer chuckle when considering its bulbous form, or that at first blush the rugby ball appears overinflated — which may or may not preclude Tom Brady from throwing it any great distance.

We now know rugby scrums are a pretty cool way to determine possession. Ditto for line-outs, when players are hoisted into the air by the waistband of their rugby shorts, making them vulnerable to comprehensive wedgies.

And that not all rugby fans dress in flags, national colors or “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” suits. Just 99 percent dress this way.

Likewise, not all rugby fans consume mass quantities of beer, most of it copper in color. Just 99 percent of them do.

We know touchdowns in sevens rugby are worth five points. Only they are called tries, not touchdowns. And there sure are a lot of laterals.

Another rugby truth that is self-evident: Rugby fans have a hell of a good time watching rugby. Especially the Kenyans. Rugby supporters don’t start fights when they get liquored up on copper-colored beer. They mostly hug you, and call you bro.

We know the All Blacks of New Zealand are the Yankees of sevens rugby. They have a venerable coach who sports a dour expression and has been knighted.

Sir Gordon Tietjens is the Joe Torre of sevens rugby, having guided the All Blacks — so named for a typographical error; it was supposed to be “all backs” as in a rugby position — to World Series titles in 2001, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’07, ’08, ’11, ’12, ’13 and ’14. Take that Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy.

South Africa is pretty good, too. South Africa is ranked No. 1 on the official sevens rugby table. New Zealand is No. 2.

You may know that Carlin Isles of the U.S. is “The Fastest Man in Rugby.” He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds, which prompted the Detroit Lions to sign him to their practice squad.

The U.S. came into Sam Boyd Stadium ranked No. 8 among the 19 or so sevens rugby playing nations. But the Eagles must be getting better at matriculating the bulbous ball down the field, to paraphrase Hank Stram, because our guys tied South Africa 19-19 on Saturday — Invictus for all! — to advance to their first Cup semifinal in five years.

Alas, the U.S. had to play New Zealand next.

Our guys actually led for about four seconds on Sunday afternoon, and people in the press box cheered, though you are not supposed to do that. That’s how big leading New Zealand was, even if New Zealand was missing key players due to injury, and even if it was only for about four seconds.

The All Blacks won 26-12. Then our rugby guys got skunked by South Africa, which wasn’t injury-depleted, 31-0 for third place.

“We actually played a lot better than I thought we would,” a man wearing a Harley Davidson of Milwaukee T-shirt told his companion in the floppy hat as they made their way toward the exits or the beer line.

This was when the women’s final was about to start. The lines to use the restroom were interminable.

On Saturday, a big crowd of 34,593 turned out to watch these men with broad shoulders from island nations and peninsulas play rugby. Sunday’s matches drew another impressive throng of 25,847 as our ideal weather remained ideal.

This is the tried-and-true method of attracting a big sporting crowd in Las Vegas: Do not depend on the locals to purchase tickets. Works for the National Finals Rodeo. Works for NASCAR. Works for the Las Vegas Bowl.

Works for the three guys I saw walking toward their car draped in Swiss flags, though the Swiss were not included in the bracket. (I believe the Swiss play rugby union, which is 15 men a side.)

It even works for Deion Sanders.

This is what Prime Time posted on his Twitter account Saturday: Watching rugby WAL vs SAM (Wales vs. Samoa) on @nbc. I’ve decided I want to make a comeback in rugby. @NBCSports help me make it happen.

He added the hashtag #Truth.

So not everything about sevens rugby is a self-evident truth. Some are only half-truths.

I have seen the way the All Blacks and the Fijians — especially the Fijians — tackle carriers of the bulbous-shaped rugby ball. Elbows and divots sometimes fly, and it would appear that horse collars are legal in rugby.

During the first half of the Cup final, won 35-19 by Fiji, one of the Fijians took exception to the physicality of one of the New Zealanders. Then he took his index finger and jabbed it into the eye socket of the physical New Zealander in a Moe vs. Curly, Three Stooges style.

One hopes that Neon Deion knows of what he tweets. These island nations tend to take their rugby seriously.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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