Rhinos and Royals dominate opening day of World Tens Series
London Royals and Rhinos stamped their early authority on the inaugural World Tens Series after finishing the opening day with perfect records yesterday.
The ten-a-side series, comprising seven privately owned teams from around the globe, featuring world-class players, and combining both the XV and seven-a-side codes of rugby, kicked off with nine action-packed encounters at North Field.
With the SX10 franchise being forced to sit out the first round of matches after one of their players tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the tournament, the remaining six teams — Asia Pacific Dragons, Phoenix, London Royals, Miami Sun, Rhinos and Ohio Aviators — locked horns over three matches each.
Royals kicked off proceedings with a scintillating 23-6 win over Miami, before going on to claim a 12-0 success over Asia Pacific and were then forced to come from behind in a hard-fought 11-10 victory against the Aviators in what proved the match of the day.
“We had some really good battles out there and thankfully we came away with all three wins,” said Dan Norton, the World Sevens Series’ all-time leading tryscorer, who also scored the first try of the tournament.
“Ohio were a big team, they played a much more different style to the teams in the first two matches and it was great to have that different test and be able to adapt the way we did. It’s all about growing as a team as the tournament progresses.
“The great thing about Tens is that you have a real mix of players and styles and so you never really know what to expect. Today was great credit to our squad because we fronted up to those different styles and came away with three victories.
“You never really know what to expect from the opening day but to come out in the position we have is great and we can build on that moving forward.”
Royals are joined as the early pacesetters by Rhinos, who also won all three of their encounters, overcoming Asia Pacific 16-5, Aviators 12-0 and Phoenix 38-10 to set up a mouth-watering encounter against their nearest rivals in the second set of first-round matches today.
“We planned to use the first day as a chance to get to know each other better but to come away with three wins from three, we can’t complain,” said Rhinos captain and United States international Mike Te'o.
“We knew we couldn’t win the tournament today, so for us we didn’t care if we won by 100 points or lost by 100 points. We just wanted to bond as a unit, but it turned out a great day.
“There is a lot to play for still but the incentive for us is if we can win all our remaining games tomorrow and top the table, we get a bye through to the semi-finals, which would be huge.
“Royals looked really strong and for sure it will be a good match-up tomorrow.”
Despite their early dominance, the pair cannot rest on their laurels with the format of the series pitting all the franchises in a World Tens League across two series tournaments, with the team with most points being seeded as No 1 for the World Tens Series Cup, a knockout play-off format taking place on November 7.
So while Royals and Rhinos have stolen an early march on their rivals for that No 1 seeding and a bye into the semi-finals of the cup competition, there is still plenty of incentive and opportunity for the remaining teams to make up ground today and next weekend.
That will give the likes of Phoenix, who were missing a host of their squad owing to isolation protocols, hope of overturning their fortunes, after three straight defeats, while, the remaining teams of Miami, Aviators and Asia Pacific will also remain confident of still challenging after claiming a win apiece on the first day.
Reflecting on day one, Paul Holmes, the chief operating officer of World Tens Series, hailed the early success of the tournament after seeing his vision finally come to fruition.
“It’s incredible and almost surreal to finally see this all happening after more than a year of planning,” he said.
“After the year we’ve all had, we weren’t sure it was ever going to happen, but here we are and day one was incredible.
“There was some great action today and it sets it up nicely for tomorrow and next weekend.
“The great thing is that these first two rounds of matches only gives the teams standings for the World Tens Series Cup, so it is all still to play for all the teams. What’s really cool is that even Phoenix and SX10 could still win the overall prize.
“It excites me to see what Phoenix will look like once their players are cleared of isolation protocols because to me they have to be one of the favourites with a fully available squad.”
Round One results
Miami Sun 6 London Royals 23
Phoenix 0 Ohio Aviators 26
Asia Pacific Dragons 5 Rhinos 16
Ohio Aviators 0 Rhinos 16
Phoenix 0 Miami Sun 32
London Royals 12 Asia Pacific Dragons 0
Phoenix 10 Rhinos 38
Ohio Aviators 10 London Royals 11
Miami Suns 0 Asia Pacific Dragons 20
Rhinos v Miami Suns, 10am
Ohio Aviators v Asia Pacific Dragons, 10.30am
London Royals v Phoenix, 11am
Miami Sun v Ohio Aviators, noon
Phoenix v Asia Pacific Dragons, 12.30pm
Rhinos v London Royals, 1pm