GLENDALE, Colo. – The USA Falcons developmental side defeated Denver, 36-19, in the 2014 Serevi RugbyTown Sevens Cup Final Sunday at Infinity Park.
Coached by Men’s Eagles Sevens Assistant Coach Chris Brown, the Falcons were 6-0 in the tournament with wins against the USA Hawks, Negro y Azul, and Bermuda in pool play before victories against Northeast ODA and Army in the Cup Quarterfinal and Semifinal, respectively.
Maka Unufe scored four tries in the Final to bring his tournament tally to nine, while Don Pati recorded five tries in six matches for the Falcons.
The Falcons were tested by Al Caravelli’s Hawks in the first match of pool play Friday. Arkansas State University’s Dylan Carrion scored a first-half try for the Hawks, who led the Falcons, 10-7, at the half following Nese Malifa’s try and conversion.
Falcons v Hawks (match starts at 1:29:20)
Andrew Durutalo, who scored four tries during the weekend, put the Falcons ahead in the second half for three minutes and helped regain the lead before full time with an assist to Ryan Matyas. The Falcons defeated the Hawks, 17-15.
Negro y Azul went on to finish third in the overall tournament standings with a defeat of Army in the third-place match, but the team from Austin, Texas, was no match for the Falcons Friday.
The Falcons came out of the short lightning delay with fire, as Pila Taufa showed in the second minute with a monstrous hit on Chance Doyle. Moments later, Taufa followed the Falcons’ attack and rolled over the try line and two defenders for the match’s opening try. Unufe gave the Falcons a 12-0 lead with a minute remaining in the half before a Negro y Azul try.
Falcons v Negro y Azul (match starts at 2:46:00)
Up 12-7, the Falcons took care of possession and kept Negro y Azul from seriously threatening until Michael Ziegler and Pati brought the final score to 26-7 with a second-half try each.
Brown called on Aladdin Schirmer of Tony Pacheco’s AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Sevens team as injury cover for Pila Taufa, who was unavailable following the match against Negro y Azul.
“For us, he was the best forward in both games – he started at win but moved to forward – and he created the go-forward on that outside channel that we needed,” Brown said.
Bermuda drew with the Hawks, 12-12, prior to its match with the Falcons. Ziegler scored in the first minute, Pati added the second a minute after that, and the Falcons led, 26-0, at the half. It did not get easier for Bermuda, who only managed a brilliant, individual try in the final minute of the match to bring the score to 43-5.
Falcons v Bermuda (match starts at 00:13:15)
The Falcons finished atop Pool C, while the Hawks were sent to the Bowl competition in third after losses to the Falcons and Negro y Azul.
The Falcons met Northeast ODA in the Cup Quarterfinal. Northeast had assured the MCAAs would not repeat as Serevi RugbyTown Sevens Cup champions with a defeat of Tony Pacheco’s team Friday.
Unufe scored a try in his third consecutive match by outpacing recent Men’s Eagles High Performance Sevens camp attendee Richard Kirkland in the second minute of the Quarterfinal. Pati broke through Northeast’s defensive line in the fourth minute and the sweeper took out his own teammate, giving the Ute an easy stroll in-goal to extend the Falcons’ lead to 12-0.
Durutalo was sent to the bin just prior to the halftime whistle and Northeast took advantage with a try from the quick tap. The Falcons still led at the half, however, 12-7.
Falcons v Northeast ODA - Cup Quarterfinal (match starts at 2:22:00)
Northeast tied the match in the ninth minute, but two quick tries from Pati and Durutalo ended any momentum shift as the Falcons ran away with the 24-12 victory.
The Hawks crushed the Bahamas, 42-14, in the Bowl Quarterfinal, but did not earn a sixth match after being shut out, 31-0, by the Royal Air Force Spitfires.
Army had already played six matches prior to its Semifinal date with the Falcons, including a 26-15 win against Air Force in the Armed Forces Championship. The expected fatigue did not slow down Army in the first half, however, as the armed forces side replied to Unufe’s first-minute try with its own plus the conversion.
Falcons v Army - Cup Semifinal (match starts at 2:17:00)
Durutalo gave the Falcons a 10-7, half-time lead with a stiff fend and two broken tackles for the sixth-minute try. Unufe extended the lead less than 30 seconds into the second frame after catching the kickoff and running 80 meters to the try zone.
Durutalo scored his second try for some breathing space in the 10th minute and it mattered, with Army clawing its way back into the match with a try in the 12th minute. Perry Baker kicked to the ball into touch to draw the referee’s whistle on the 22-14 win.
Denver secured its own spot in the Cup Final Sunday with an undefeated run in pool play and the Cup competition against Northeast ODA, the MCAAs, the Royal Air Force Spitfires, Air Force, and Negro y Azul. Its run stopped in the Final, however, as Unufe made his case for tournament MVP with four tries in the 36-19 victory.
With 10-minute halves, both teams looked tired at times, but the standard of play was as high as one would expect at an international rugby sevens tournament. Ben Pinkelman, who was a member of the AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans earlier this year in China at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, refused to be denied in the tackle in the second minute and offloaded a pass over a Falcon to set his teammate free for the match’s opening try.
Baker was finally allowed to show off his game-breaking speed in the fourth minute after beating three different defenders from the Falcons’ 22 to level the match. Baker was then used as a decoy for Unufe to give the Falcons the lead, 14-7. Unufe needed some treatment for a cut in the final minute of the half and Durutalo and Malifa helped make space for Ziegler to score in the corner for a 19-7 lead after the first period.
Falcons v Denver - Cup Final (match starts at 1:47:30)
Durutalo and Unufe combined on two plays in the 12th and 15th minutes, resulting in Unufe’s second and third tries. His fourth, in the 20th minute with the Falcons leading, 31-19, came from the restart. The Utah-born back spun away from a tackler hanging by the shirt tail and drove his legs until he crossed the try line.
The Falcons won the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens for the second time in the tournament’s three-year history. Brown said the team felt as though it was “expected to win.”
“They worked hard off the ball, they defended well, and they closed out the games,” the Men’s Eagles Sevens assistant coach said following the Cup Semifinal. “That was a breakdown of a mental barrier that’s been there, which was really good to see.
“They’ve come a long way in the conditioning element and breaking down some of those mental games they play with themselves. At the moment they’re one game on, one game off, and it’s only a decision they need to make with themselves. In the Semifinal they were relaxed; they knew what they needed to do but they were also hungry and willing to do it.”
While the tournament was used as a developmental tool for the High Performance program, Brown made sure the Eagles in the team were doing the right things as if they were on the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series circuit.
“I’ve been pretty hard on them,” Brown said prior to the Cup Final. “Two-and-a-half minutes into the first game, I pulled two of our squad players off because they missed two tackles, they weren’t communicating in defense, and they weren’t holding the shape. I said, ‘Boys, we don’t get a second chance at this when it comes to World Series time.’
“We got through that game and they came back and responded a lot better, but it was the same in the Quarterfinal. One of our old boys, who was coming back from injuries and growing as a player, started doing all of these fifty-fifty passes. Four minutes into the first half I pulled him off and said, ‘Mate, you can’t do that. You’re not helping the team.’ So it’s the whole growth process, which is massive.”
If six wins was not enough, Brown was very pleased with the Falcons’ ability to see off each win. In their final pool match at IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, Russia, last year, the Eagles held a 19-5 advantage against eventual champion New Zealand through nine minutes of the 14-minute match. They would end up losing, 26-19.
“From what I’ve seen, U.S. sides haven’t been able to finish off games,” Brown said. “That’s the difference between the top five and six teams and the rest of the teams on the circuit. You get ahead, then it’s almost like there’s this worry that comes into their minds: ‘What do we do now?’ Maybe it’s a lack of fitness or lack of belief in their fitness: ‘Can we go another three minutes if we have to defend that whole time?’
“You’ve got to believe that you can win and some of the times you find yourself in a position where you’re ahead but, actually, you never thought you’d be there, so you’re like, ‘Oh, gee, do we have the right to win this?’
“Those thoughts have to go, because, at the end of the day, it’s twelve men versus twelve men. It doesn’t matter what color jersey you have on. If you’re doing your role right, you’re going to nullify what the opposition is doing.”
The Falcons and Hawks, as well as a few members of the MCAAs, will return to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., for the second Men’s Eagles High Performance Sevens camp before the Eagles head to Australia for Gold Coast Sevens in October.
USA Falcons | 2014 Serevi RugbyTown Sevens
|First Name||Last Name||School/Club||Height||Weight (lbs.)|
|Perry||Baker||Men's Eagles Sevens & Columbus-1823||6'1"||180|
|Andrew||Durutalo||Men's Eagles Sevens & Seattle-OPSB||6'2"||245|
|Valenese||Malifa||Men's Eagles Sevens||5'10"||190|
|Don||Pati||Park City Haggis||5'7"||180|
|Marcus||Satavu||New Haven Bulldogs||6'0"||210|
|Pila||Taufa||Men's Eagles Sevens||6'3"||205|
|Maka||Unufe||Men's Eagles Sevens||6'2"||200|
|Michael||Ziegler||Men's Eagles Sevens & Columbus-1823||6'4"||230|
USA Falcons | Coaching Staff
Chris Brown - Head Coach
Paul Goulding - Manager & Analyst
Brian Green - Trainer
USA Hawks | 2014 Serevi RugbyTown Sevens
|First Name||Last Name||School/Club||Height||Weight (lbs.)|
|Christian||Adams||American International College||5'9"||215|
|Dylan||Carrion||Arkansas State University||5'6"||150|
|Tyler||Coffman||Central Washington University||6'3"||210|
|JJ||Corpuz-Jackson||American International College||6'2"||233|
|Brad||Harrington||University of California Berkeley||6'2"||195|
|Bubba||Jones||Saint Mary's College||5'9"||200|
|Shawn||Riley||Notre Dame College||5'10"||190|
|Kenny||Scott||Kansas City Blues||6'4"||210|
|Sam||Sirrell||University of California Los Angeles||5'11"||205|
|Max||Tacket||California Polytechnic State University||6'0"||205|
|Jimmy||Wolfer||St. Joseph's University||5'9"||175|
USA Hawks | Coaching Staff
Al Caravelli - Head Coach
David Fee - Coach & Manager
Brian Finn - Trainer