The USA Eagles fell behind Kenya to 12th in the IRB Sevens standings after a mixed-bag tournament in Glasgow last weekend.
Still, earning tournament points is always a good thing.
In the end, USA was beaten by Kenya – a team they’d beaten in earlier round play – in the Shield Final, by 22-17. It’s now on to London for the tournament finale this weekend. Coach Alexander Magleby believes that, on a good day, his team can compete with the best and are steadily improving. In pool play, the Eagles played the Aussies close, until giving away two tries in the final two minutes and losing 29-14. They also played the English hard, tied 12-12 until deep into the second half, before going down 19-12. In their final pool game, the Eagles beat Kenya 29-14, with emerging star Rocco Mauer scoring two tries.
That performance put the Eagles into the Bowl quarterfinal against Russia, where they lost by just one point to move to the Shield segment of the four-trophy format of a Sevens tournament. The points from Glasgow put the Eagles in 12th place, tied on points with Kenya and just two behind Scotland. With just the London tournament remaining, the Eagles will have to shine to meet their pre-season goal of a top ten finish.
For the record, the New Zealand team extended its lead at the top of the table to 11 points over Fiji.
By Jerrod Beckstrom
TOKYO — Seven was the magical number for the Eagles this weekend in the Tokyo Sevens. It was the seventh stop on the HSBC Sevens World Series and the USA Men’s Eagle Sevens team claimed seven crucial Series points. That means the USA leapfrogs Scotland, Canada, and Kenya (only just) to sit at no. 10 in the world.
The Eagles went 3-3 in Tokyo with losses coming from quality opponents: Cup semifinalists and Series leaders New Zealand; Tokyo Sevens champions Australia; and the team that snuck by the USA 17-12 in the Bowl Final, France.
Three wins against Hong Kong, Kenya, and Portugal gives new USA Head Coach Alexander Magleby a platform to build on in April as the USA prepares for the Glasgow (May 5-6, 2012) and London Sevens (May 12-13, 2012).
Overall the team looked confident and opportunistic in Japan, the result of which was exciting attacking rugby. Rocco Mauer, who was playing college rugby for Bowling Green State just last year, exploded onto the scene in Tokyo scoring four tries, putting him among the elite scorers in the tournament.
Results: Pool B
Australia 15 USA O; USA 5 New Zealand 26; USA 21 Hong Kong 19.
Bowl Quarterfinal: USA 12 Kenya 7; Bowl Semifinal USA 20 Portugal 10; Bowl Final: France 17 USA 12.
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.
The USA Sevens team will have the chance for a bit of redemption after moving into the semi-finals of the 2011 Pan-Am games.
There they will face Canda, who beat them in the pool play stage of the tournament. One win, and the Eagles are guaranteed a medal. Still, Canada put a bit of a hurting on the U.S. in their first game and it will be a tough ask.
The U.S. made it to the semi-final game by beating Guyana 24-12. The game shouldn’t have been that close, but the U.S. team did not capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes and left them in the game too long.
U.S. tries were scored by Maka Unufe, Blaine Scully, Folau Niua, Rocco Mauer.
By USA Rugby - The 12-man rugby sevens squad heading to Guadalajara, Mexico will be engrained with a mantra that will help it maintain focus in the quadrennial tournament: ‘Play in the moment.’
“Playing in the moment helps every athlete and staff member focus on the task at hand. Not to get distracted by the environment, from peripheral things we don’t have control over,” said USA Head Coach, Al Caravelli. “If we take care of the little things the big things take care of themselves.”
That mentality will be put into practice on the field on October 29 when the team will see Brazil, Chile, and rivals Canada in pool play. Their record from the first day will determine which teams they will face in the playoffs on October 30. The other pool consists of Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, and Guyana.
Caravelli continued to say that the Pan-Am environment itself can be distracting, but the players must maintain focus. As part of United States Olympic Committee and the guild of athletes and sports under the Team USA moniker, the USA Men’s Eagle Sevens team will compete in its first Olympic-style rugby sevens tournament. The Pan Am Games take place every four years and will serve as an Americas preview of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“You can imagine that in a multisport event with over 2,000 athletes, we have to be prepared for anything and everything to be thrown at us. On the field of play, we will not take anyone lightly. Every game we play, we’ll have the attitude that it is a final, the players have embraced this and are executing.”