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Tuesday Jul 26, 2016

Singha Premiership Rugby 7s signals the start of the NH season

Four weeks after the summer tours brought down the curtain on the 2015/16 Northern Hemisphere season, the 2016/17 version started in earnest this weekend with the staging of Groups A and B of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s tournament. 

7s rugby is well and truly having its moment in the spotlight right now (the Olympics 7s starts in under a fortnight). The Premiership 7s tournament has established itself as a mainstay of the rugby calendar, with fans across Wales and England keen to see their beloved teams back on the field again – and with the teams made up primarily of academy players, it also provides the chance to see some stars of tomorrow. 

Friday night saw the four Welsh regions compete to see who would progress from Group A to the Series Final, while on Saturday we saw Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Wasps challenge for the spoils in Group B. Here, we’ll be focusing on Friday night’s events in Cardiff.

With many 15-a-side regulars having a crack at 7s, it was fitting that James Hook and Rob Vickerman addressed the failure of numerous stars of the longer form of the game to achieve selection for Rio.

There are and always will be doubters who belittle the skills of 7s specialists, but with players such as Bryan Habana and Quade Cooper struggling in the shorter form, perhaps many will realise just how good the specialists are.

HOOK AND VICKERMAN DISCUSS 7s SELECTIONS

[UK ONLY, via BT Sport]

Irrespective of the make-up of the sides selected, we were treated to some moments of real 7s flair.

Newport Gwent Dragons, for so long the weakest of the Welsh regions in the 15-a-side game, were confident of progression on Friday in the quest to retain their title. For the third year running, they had drafted in Nick Wakley, an experience 7s coach and a former Wales 7s player to boot.

However, it was the Ospreys and the Cardiff Blues who got proceedings underway. Despite a spell playing with 6 men very early on due to a deliberate trip, conceding a penalty try in the process, the Blues managed to overcome a 10-0 deficit and win the opening encounter 17-15 – although the scoreboard originally showed 17-17 after an Ospreys conversion had earlier been mistakenly awarded.

The stand-out moment was undoubtedly this grab by Adam Thomas for the try that started the comeback. The offload itself by Owen Jenkins is something to behold as well, somehow freeing up his hands from Row B of the stands and with two Ospreylians making the tackle. 

Given what their U15s can do, there’s obviously something in the water down in Cardiff.

THOMAS AND JENKINS COMBINE IN THE CORNER

The Dragons got off to winning ways with a 26-12 victory over the Scarlets. The Ospreys then made amends for their opening defeat by winning their two other matches, while the Blues beat the Scarlets.

These results meant that the final match between the Dragons and the Blues would decide who would go through to the Series Final.

As it stood, the Ospreys were in first place but the winner would in all likelihood usurp them and go through alongside them (unless the Dragons won with a bonus point and the Blues lost by fewer than seven whilst also scoring four tries, in which case it would be the East Walians both going through). 

It was a fitting finale to the evening. The Dragons more than played their part with two excellent tries – one from a big don’t-argue by Jonny Lewis on opposite number Dane Blacker (though he did blot his copybook a bit in the aftermath), the other being a sensational individual effort by Chris Levesley starting inside his own 22.

Levesley’s score meant that the Dragons were leading 22-17 with under one minute to go.

DRAGONS SCRUM-HALF WITH HUGE FEND 

LEVESLEY GOES COAST TO COAST 

 

[UK only, via BT Sport]

However, youngster Blacker was to have the last laugh as he scored in the last play of the game. The conversion gave the Blues the victory, and with it first place in Group A. They are joined in the Series Final by the Ospreys. 

UPCOMING FIXTURES:

Group C: 29th July @ Franklin’s Gardens

Group D: 30th July @ Kingston Park

Series Final: 7th August @ Ricoh Arena

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