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.
Shalom Suniula was at his elusive best against Japan and made a nice break towards the end of the first half. Thanks to great support from Hawkins and Boyd, Suniula was able to convert the break into points. Hawkins was on the receiving end of a switch pass from Suniula to nullify a Japanese defender in pursuit and put the USA up 12-0 at halftime.
Al Caravelli told his troops at halftime, “It’s 0-0, finish this game.” The Eagles started strong in the second half, but a knock on by the USA opened the door for Japan and they would capitalize, scoring a try through Lote Tuqiri.
Japan struck again minutes after their first score, breaking the American line and, with two Japanese players running in support, were able to draw American defenders and score right underneath the posts. The simple conversion would prove to be the difference in the game.
The Eagles made a last gasp effort in the final two minutes to get another try with Zack Test powering down the touch line and getting tripped up only feet away from the try zone. Japan was able to halt the Eagle attack and finish the game on top, eliminating the USA from the Bowl Final.
The Eagles will head to Australia next week for the sixth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series where they will take on Pool C opponents Fiji, Australia, and Tonga.