Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
The USA started the day with the daunting task of facing Samoa in the Cup Quarterfinals. The USA held tough in the first half and took a 7-5 lead into halftime behind a try from Matt Hawkins and conversion from Nese Malifa.
The lead held almost three minutes into the second half as the USA looked to pull the major upset off. Unfortunately, the powerful Samoa finally broke through and they did it in a big way. Lolo Lui, Fautua Otto, and Mikaele Pesamino scored tries in a crushing three minute span to crush the USA’s hopes of moving on.
Samoa went on to claim their third straight IRB Tournament Championship with a 24-21 win over New Zealand. The win vaults Samoa to the top of the IRB Series standings.
With the loss in the Cup round, the USA fell to the Plate Semifinal where they faced off against Australia.
The USA jumped out to a 5-0 midway through the first half behind a try from Kevin Swiryn. Just as in the match against Samoa, the USA ran into a rough patch. Australia punched in two tries in the minute before haltime to take a 14-5 lead.
The USA cut the lead to 14-12 behind a try from Shalom Suniula just after halftime. The two teams battled the remainder of the half with Australia putting the game away with a late try to end the scoring at 21-12.
A far cry from the 36-0 shutout Australia put on the Americans last week, but still a disappointing result for the USA. Two separate lapses in play against Samoa and then Australia cost the USA potential victories.
The explosive power and pace of the elite in the sevens world will punish any lapses in play and that is something that the USA will need to improve as they find themselves playing in more and more Cup rounds.
Despite the two losses, the USA comes away with eight more IRB series points. The USA’s current tally of 32 points is a record for for the American’s and they have also picked up points in three straight tournaments which is also a record for the team.
With that, the USA’s most successful leg ever played on the IRB Series comes to an end. Two more stops on the IRB Series (London & Edinburgh) will provide the USA two more opportunities to prove themselves this season. Their core status nearly clinched for next season, the pressure to qualify has been relieved and the USA can concentrate on winning more games.