WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The wins were hard to come by in the Wellington Sevens, and a tough draw and a rough day two of the tournament put wins just out of reach for the USA Men’s Sevens team.
DAY TWO RECAP
After tying England and losing to both Spain and hosts New Zealand on the first day of competition, the Eagles had to face Fiji to open day two.
Fiji were back to their deceptive best after making a rare appearance in the Bowl Competition, having qualified for the more elite Cup in every tournament in recent memory. The USA managed to get two nice scores and showed some good interplay, but the Fijian attack was firing on all cylinders, which is a very tough process to stop. After the loss to Fiji, the Eagles faced Wales in the Shield Semifinal.
Like they had done all tournament, the USA took an early lead over Wales, but their discipline betrayed them and some harsh calls compounded their problems.
There were flashes of brilliance the entire tournament, but especially against Wales. Luke Hume is establishing himself as a star of the team and was in great form against the Welsh. His scrappy demeanor, fantastic balance, and aggressive attacking philosophy all contribute to his ability to make something out of nothing. His captain, Matt Hawkins is wise to that fact. The Hume-Hawkins combo created two tries against Wales. One came in the first half when Hawkins himself collected a Hume offload for a try, and the other came in the second when Hume made a break, offloaded to Hawkins who managed to offload (while falling down and being tackled) to Jack Halalilo who finished with a sensational catch and score of his own.
Luke Hume is an emerging star for the USA. Photo credit: Martin Seras Lima
The USA looked good on offense, but they didn't have much ball due to Welsh stinginess and a lot of self-destructive penalties. Poor defensive position after committing penalties made problems worse for the USA as Wales scored twice on quick taps. A conversion was the difference in the end and Wales prevailed over the Eagles 17-15.
After a tough tournament, penalties and turnovers stood out as problem areas.
“There is a source of these mistakes. We need to evaluate why we’re making these decisions. We’ll have a look at the film and get a better idea how we’ll approach the problem,” said USA Head Coach Alexander Magleby.
The losses surely frustrate and sting, but team progress is evident. Player fitness and aggression have shown improvement. Restarts were solid and players are stepping up to make big plays. The attack seemed forced at times, but players like Hume, Colin Hawley, Zack Test, Nick Edwards, Maka Unufe, and Jack Halalilo have shown great attacking instincts and abilities.
Hard work lies ahead and continuous improvement will lead to more competitiveness, which will lead to wins. It’s a long, difficult process and the Eagles are a work in progress.
Next weekend the Eagles will play in front of their home fans at the USA Sevens, but a good effort for the crowd won’t do: the team needs and wants to win.
“It’ll be huge to play in front of our fans, but the crowd deserves to see more than a great effort, we have to get results. We have to accomplish something for them. We have to execute,” Magleby concluded.
NZ Sevens Day Two Results
Tries: Hawley, Test
Tries: Raqamate, Nagusa, Cakau, Vota, Tinai
Conversions: Raqamate (2)
Tries: Hawkins, Halalilo, Scully
Tries: Morgan, Shellard, Thomas