The 2011 Las Vegas 7s was a massive success with a record crowd attendance over the two-day event. The paid attendance for Sunday was 25,032 and 24,877 on Saturday, which puts the total number to well over 50,000 when including the staff that worked the event. This was a 36% increase from last year, making the USA event one of the most popular destinations on the Sevens World Series. The Hong Kong and Wellington tournaments top the list, with the smallest audiences seen at the South African (George) and Australian (Adelaide) legs.
The Las Vegas Invitational (LVI) rugby tournament - which was played from Wednesday to Saturday on the fields outside of Sam Boyd Stadium - hosted over 180 different teams ranging from youth, college, club and international players.
“We did some research, and this was without a doubt the largest rugby tournament in America.” said LVI competition manager Jon Hinkin.
In a change to the usual competition format, the Cup final was played before the Plate, Bowl and Shield finals to tie in with the first live broadcasting of the Sevens World Series on network television across the States, on NBC. This was a major step in creating rugby awareness throughout America – and together with BBC America showing the Six Nations competition – is exciting times in this country.
NFL convert Miles Craigwell – who played on the wing for the USA this weekend – was mentioned on several occasions in the media, which could open the door to plenty more crossover athletes.
The tournament atmosphere was fantastic with thousands of spectators seen in various colorful outfits.
Meanwhile on the field it was South Africa who played brilliant sevens to defeat England 17-10 in a thrilling semi final, following that up with a pulsating 24-14 victory over Fiji in the Cup final. Cecil Africa – who returned from a broken jaw injury - was the player of the tournament for the South Africans. He is the leading point (181) and try scorer (22) so far in this 2010 points and are in fifth place (56) behind leaders England and New Zealand (80), as well as Samoa and Fiji (64). The USA is 11th on 6 points, behind Scotland (8) and Kenya (12). England’s Ben Gollings made history by scoring his 2,500th point on the Series, while Uale Mai played in his 67th tournament for Samoa.
Fiji caused two of the biggest upsets by knocking out last year’s Las Vegas champions Samoa by 17-12. Then in the Cup semi final they defeated the last week’s Wellington Cup winners New Zealand 26-7 in spectacular fashion!
In the other sections, Samoa stormed to the Plate title, defeating Kenya 26-15. Despite the loss the Kenyans were well supported by several thousand wild fans, which bring such a vibrant atmosphere to the Series. To get to the final Kenya knocked out Australia 24-21 on the final play of the game, which of course sent their supporters into a frenzy!
Scotland took down Canada in the Bowl final by 19-14 and received 4 valuable IRB points. They also had a thrilling semi final match, scoring after the hooter sounded, to beat Wales 17-12.
The United States won the Shield title, but there are no IRB points up for grabs in this section of the competition. During pool play the USA lost against eventual winners South Africa (27-5) and Samoa (28-12). Under the stadium lights they bounced back to defeated Japan 24-7 to put them in the Bowl quarterfinals. On Sunday North American neighbors Canada shocked the United States with a 19-15 result, putting them in the Shield section. The home side then beat Uruguay 27-7 in the semi finals and Japan 19-12 in the final.
The next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series take place in Hong Kong from March 25-27th and Adelaide (Australia) from 2-3rd April.
For more information on the Sevens World Series visit www.irbsevens.com.
Photo Credit: Sharon Lovell (http://noreinsgirlphotography.smugmug.com/)