HONG KONG – Japan defeated the USA 14-12 in the final minutes of the Hong Kong Sevens Bowl Semifinal and eliminated the Eagles from the tournament.
The Eagles had defeated Tonga 26-21 in the Bowl Quarterfinals to advance to the semifinal round.
Japan pulled an upset defeating Scotland in the Bowl Quarterfinals to earn a spot in the semis. Four of the last six matches the Eagles have played in the HSBC Sevens World Series have been against Japan, so the two sides knew one another very well. The USA also beat Japan in Shield Final at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas last month, something the Japanese were sure to remember.
Staunch Eagle defense and disciplined attack defined the first half for the USA and it looked to be going the way of the Eagles early.
Justin Boyd started the scoring, getting good ball at pace, sizing up the defense and slicing through two drifting defenders for a try. Boyd looked to be playing with plenty of confidence and was a threat the entire game.
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BOULDER, Colo. – The USA Men’s Sevens team departs Sunday for Hong Kong to take part in the fifth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series. The team will face pool opponents Japan, China, and England on March 25.
Head coach Al Caravelli had several spots to fill due to injury, so the Hong Kong traveling squad sees three players being added to the fold.
Two new faces, Taylor Mokate and Peter Tiberio, hail from the collegiate ranks and a seasoned veteran in international fifteens and sevens, Todd Clever, joins the team.
A University of Oklahoma star, former USA Under-20/Junior All-American captain and two time Collegiate All-American, Mokate gets an official call up to Team USA after filling in for injured players in the USA Sevens last month in Las Vegas. Mokate is a hard-charging forward that is a threat in the air and set pieces.
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Todd Clever, the bushy-haired and wild-eyed leader of the U.S. 15s, is returning for Sevens duty for the Hong Kong tournament.
Clever plays professional Rugby in Japan for Suntory. That season is now finished.
It’s been just under two years since Clever last donned a red, white and blue Sevens shirt for the U.S. The jump between the two games is not an easy one. The speed, individuality and pure fitness level required for Sevens means the needed adjustment is both physical and mental.
Still, having Clever’s energy and fiery leadership back with the team – even if he plays only a few minutes – is bound to ignite his teammates.
The Hong Kong tournament, long one of the most festive and widely supported IRB Sevens dates, runs from March 25 to March 27.
The U.S., which has claimed the Shield in its last two tournaments – in Wellington and Las Vegas – will face pool play games against England, Japan and China.
The U.S. Eagle will face pool play against England, China and Japan in the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, March 25-27.
The Hong Kong tournament, one of the crown jewels of the IRB circuit, is the only competition to host 24 teams, so extra points are available.
New Zealand, which is currently tied with England at the top of the table on 80 points, will face France, Portugal and Korea in their pool.
The U.S., with six points, is currently in 11th place after four rounds of the eight round, worldwide tournament. After Hong Kong, the teams will meet in Australia, England and Scotland, where the tournament will culminate May 28-29.
Editor’s note: Paddy O’Brien is a New Zealand international rugby union referee and currently the head of the International Rugby Board’s Referee Board. He recently wrote this piece about the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2011 for us:
It will a great day in New Plymouth on September 11th when that city hosts Ireland and USA in their opening games of RWC 2011. A number of features stand out. September 11 is a significant date in that it will be the 10th anniversary of the attack on America by Al Qaeda: the U.S. Eagles are coached by the man who led Ireland into the 2007 World Cup, Eddie O’Sullivan; and USA, the last Olympic Rugby Champions (1924), will have to be all out to hold a team ranked several places ahead of them on the IRB rankings.
Whilst most people associate the USA with gridiron, it is fair to say Rugby Union is becoming stronger each year in a country which we all know produces wonderful athletes. Whilst I have never refereed USA in the 15s form of the game I have witnessed them on the IRB Sevens circuit and the passion and power they show in this form of the game is outstanding. Their Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, is a real character who lives and breathes the game and the improvement they have shown since the series began is immense.
On February 19, under sunny skies and in full view of crunching tackles and a multitude of tries, Ambassador David Huebner watched the 2011 American Ambassador’s Cup Rugby 7s tournament at Trentham Memorial Park in Upper Hutt. In 1967, the then-American Ambassador John F. Henning donated a cup for Wellington’s Rugby clubs to contest at Rugby 7s. This year, Ambassador Huebner had the opportunity to present a new American Ambassador’s cup to the victor of the 2011 tournament. And that victor was the team from the Wainuiomata club, which defeated Oriental-Rongotai in a thrilling final. Congratulations to the Wellington Rugby Union for running a wonderful tournament and to all of the participating teams for the spirit and vigor with which they played. We cannot wait for the next tournament. – Craig Greaves.
From our friend Alex Goff at Rugby Magazine, here is an interesting and well-written profile of Shalom Suniula, a star for both the Eagles Sevens team as well as the 15-man team.
Durability is one key measurement of success in all sports, and in a physical contest like rugby 7s, it is gold.
But a durable rugby player isn’t always the biggest and scariest. For every Tyrannosaurus Rex crashing through the jungle, there’s a scrappy little creature dodging its talons.
That’s Shalom Suniula. The American Samoa-born USA scrumhalf/flyhalf was the only USA player to participate in every IRB Sevens World Series tournament in 2009-2010. Injuries, pro contracts and 15s national team callups undercut the USA’s efforts at fielding anything close to the same squad every event. But Suniula, whose older brothers Andrew and Roland have also played for the USA in 7s, stuck out the entire season.
“I take pride in it because I know some boys are less fortunate with injuries or other commitments,” Suniula told RUGBY. “I grew up with Roland and Andrew playing together. They always liked the smash and bash game, and with older brothers, they’re always trying to bash me, too. For me to get away from all that I had to try and dodge them!”
That shiftiness has translated into some nifty rugby skills. Suniula has an impressive sidestep and after playing all last season as a scrumhalf, he was pressed into service at flyhalf when Nese Malifa came down with an injury just before Dubai.
Despite some adjustments with his goalkicking, Suniula hardly missed a beat, and helped lead the USA to its best start ever.
“I feel very comfortable at flyhalf,” Suniula enthused. “There’s a lot more room and time there and I feel more free. I get to play my game and let my natural flair do its work on the field. With the players I have around me on the USA team, it’s a lot of fun.”