HONG KONG — An electric Kenyan side stormed back in the second half of the Hong Kong Sevens Bowl final to edge the USA out 12-14.
A 28-14 win over Scotland in the Bowl Semifinal earlier in the day gave the Eagles momentum that they carried into the final, but they couldn’t finish Kenya off.
The first half saw the Eagles work extremely hard on defense, holding Kenyan ball-carriers up in contact and counter rucking well. Rookie Rocco Mauer got over for the Eagles first after gathering a slick flick pass from his captain, Shalom Suniula, and burning down the touch line for 60 meters. Mauer and Suniula played a key role in the next USA score stepping and bunching up Kenyan defenders on the right side of the field and then stretching them out left. Colin Hawley kept good width and depth and strolled in untouched, but worked to score under the posts.Up 12-0 at the half, the Eagles were simply outplayed in the second period. Humphrey Kayange splintered the USA defense with an excellent angled run. Suniula nearly cut him off before he got to the try line, but the tall Kenyan stretched out and scored his team’s first points of the game. Kenya pinched the ball from the Eagles to start their second scoring move. Kenyan and American bodies were piling up in the ruck and a quick pass released Willy Ambaka Ndayara for a try. With the successful conversion the Kenyans took a 14-12 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Late in the game the Eagles worked their way deep into the Kenyan half and made an aggressive call to quick tap when the Kenyans were penalized 15 meters in front of their own posts. The Eagles backed themselves to score and button the game up, but couldn’t breach the defense.
The two games in the knockout stages provided some cause for optimism, after the Eagles went 0-3 in Pool play against very powerful opponents New Zealand, South Africa and Wales. The USA plays next weekend in the Tokyo Sevens from March 31-April 1.
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Newly hired USA Men’s Eagle Sevens head coach, Alexander Magleby, has named the 12 players that will depart on Sunday March 18 for the sixth and seventh stops of the 2011-2012 HSBC Sevens World Series.
The USA will play in the world renowned Hong Kong Sevens from March 23-25 and the first-ever Tokyo Sevens on March 31 – April 1.
“Hong Kong is an exciting tournament, one of the best, and a great opportunity for us to grow,” said Magleby who has played for the USA in the Hong Kong Sevens before and will soon know what it’s like to coach at the famous tournament.
Captain Shalom Suniula feels that the team is confident and aware of where they stand as a group going into the climax of the Series. “We’ve got a really good feeling right now. The guys have been working really, really hard to get rid of some bad habits. We’re working on our defense, we still need work and we know that, which is good,” Suniula said.
The captain will lead a corps of capable and experienced players. Zack Test, Colin Hawley, Mike Palefau, Peter Tiberio, Folau Niua, and Suniula are the nucleus of the team. All six have had flashes of brilliance this season so far and will look to ignite fiery performances in Hong Kong and Tokyo under their new coach.
Two exciting players, Maka Unufe and Andrew Durutalo, though very different in terms of stature and skill set, represent an exciting crop of young talent in the sevens program. Veterans Mark Bokhoven and Nick Edwards return to the team after missing out on the USA Sevens in February. Utility back Tai Enosa has earned a call up and will likely see action at flyhalf and scrumhalf in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Nu’u Punimata, the former University of Texas – El Paso linebacker and
Old Puget Sound Beach star returns to the fray in the USA forwards. A physical presence with a high work rate, Punimata hasn’t played with the Eagles since October 2011, when Team USA took bronze at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Hong Kong tournament, historically a 24-team competition, will see two parallel 12-team tournaments being played at Hong Kong Stadium. The 12 core World Series teams – teams that compete in all nine tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series, including the USA – are in one competition and 12 aspiring core teams are in the other competition that will decide which teams will be promoted to core status next season.
One result of the change in format is a very competitive pool for every core team in Hong Kong. The Eagles are no exception. The Eagles will play New Zealand (Friday March 23, 5:28 a.m. ET), South Africa (Friday March 23, 10:58 p.m. ET), and Wales (Saturday March 24, 4:06 a.m. ET) in Pool B action.
Success, Suniula said, will be realized by the achievement of small goals that will lead to positive results. One of those small goals is for players to understand their teammates and their tendencies. “We want to understand the way each other plays. Sevens is a game of anticipation, so one thing we have to do is anticipate one another’s movements,” the captain said.
USA Men’s Eagle Sevens Hong Kong and Tokyo Sevens Player (Club; Hometown) Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians; Ames, Iowa) Andrew Durutalo (Old Puget Sound Beach; Seattle Wa.) Nick Edwards (Sydney University; Sydney, Australia) Tai Enosa (USA Rugby; San Diego, Calif.) Colin Hawley (USA Rugby; Trowbridge, Calif.) Folau Niua (USA Rugby; East Palo Alto, Calif.) Mike Palefau (Unattached; Salt Lake City, Utah) Nu’u Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach; Seattle, Wa.) Shalom Suniula (USA Rugby; San Diego, Calif.) Zack Test (USA Rugby; Palo Alto, Calif.) Peter Tiberio (USA Rugby; Naperville, Ill.) Maka Unufe (USA Rugby; Provo, Utah)
- By USA Rugby –
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.