TOKYO – It was the game the USA has needed to win. The USA came from behind to beat Fiji at the death in the Plate Semifinal of the Tokyo Sevens. The Eagles will now face Scotland in the Plate Final at 2:42 a.m. ET.
With two players out with injuries for the USA (captain Matt Hawkins and winger Carlin Isles), the USA had a thin bench, but a gutsy effort by ad hoc captain Zack Test led the team to a victory. It didn’t come easy though and came down to a last minute try by Luke Hume.
Fiji had all the early momentum. Two early tries cranked up the heat on the Eagles, but they responded well. Fiji was pressuring in the contact area and playing very close to the ball, something Colin Hawley spotted and took advantage of. He put in a cross kick to Mike Palefau who was lurking out wide. Untouched, Palefau ambled in and scored under the posts.
Fiji scored just before halftime, but it would be the last points they would score in the game.
The second half was back and forth and both teams were visibly gassed. Folau Niua shot a gap and Fijian chasers were too wiped out too chase. He scored under the posts and Shalom Suniula converted.
Fiji had a few moments of brilliance, but the USA kept their defensive structure and it paid off. With less than a minute to go, the Eagles turned it over in their own half, but quickly remedied that, regaining posession. It ended up with Luke Hume, an incredibly dangerous strike runner. Hume put his foot down, shook a few defenders and worked hard to get in under the posts. Given that his try would tie the game, Hume had the presence of mind to center it and make an easy conversion attempt for Shalom Suniula. Suniula nailed it and the USA advanced to their first Plate Final of the season.
The USA will take away at least 12 series points from Tokyo, maybe 13, depending on how they do against Scotland.
Tries: Palefau, Niua, Hume
Conversions: Suniula (3)
Tries: Gavidi, Nakarawa, Kolinisau
|Nick Edwards||Jone Vota|
|Shalom Suniula||Nemani Nagusa|
|Zack Test||Sakiusa Gavidi Vatuinaruku|
|Andrew Durutalo||Osea Kolinisau|
|Folau Niua||Leone Nakarawa|
|Colin Hawley||Emosi Mulevoro|
|Mike Palefau||Samisoni Viriviri|
|Carlin Isles (Out injured)||Ulaiyasi Lawavou|
|Matt Hawkins (Out injured)||Jasa Veremalua|
|Jack Halalilo||Donasio Ratubuli Naturaga|
|Luke Hume (9')||Benito Masilevu|
|Brett Thompson (9')|