Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
The USA has finished the Las Vegas 7’s on a high note with a 19-12 win over Japan to claim the Shield (13th) title. The tournament marks the second straight HSBC World Series tournament that the USA has won the Shield.
“It gave us a chance to finish the tournament the way we wanted… with a win,” said Team USA Captain Matt Hawkins on the Shield victory.
The USA didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard as Zach Test set off, fed Matt Hawkins who raced down the sideline only to feed Test the ball back inside. Test outraced the Japanese defenders to score underneath the posts.
The USA extended their lead midway through the first half and Hawkins was in the thick of the movement again. Hawkins made another break down the sideline before passing to Marco Barnard. Always working hard, Hawkins remained in support of Barnard and was rewarded with a try to extend the USA’s lead to 14-0.
Despite the poor team results, Hawkins led from the front all weekend and never stopped battling. Hawkins played a part in nearly every USA score the entire tournament and may have notched the “Try of the Tournament” with his score against Samoa on Day 1.
Japan pushed to make a game of it and cut into the USA’s lead when Shohei Toyoshima scored from 40-meters out just before halftime.
Team USA extended their lead to 19-7 shortly after halftime when Zach Test touched down his second try of the game and fourth of the tournament.
Sione Faamao Teaupa gave Japan hope when he scored midway through the half to cut the USA’s lead to 19-12, but the USA hung strong for the remainder of the half and gave Japan little hope of completing their comeback.
Banged up, Team USA gets a break before preparations begin for the next two stops on the HSBC World Series. Inconsistency has plagued the team since the start of the season and the squad appears to have stagnated. The team has now been relegated to the Shield competition in three consecutive tournaments. The team only played in the Shield one time all of last season, which was their best season ever on the World Series.
“We’re on a roller coaster right now,” said Team USA Head Coach Al Caravelli. “We need to find consistency.”
For Team USA, all the pieces appear to be in place, but for whatever reason they are not clicking. Some important questions need answered in the coming weeks to ensure a strong finish to the season.
In other action at the Las Vegas 7’s, South Africa took home the championship with a gutsy 24-14 win over Fiji, Samoa defeated Kenya 26-15 to win the Plate, and Scotland won the Bowl with a 19-14 win over Canada.
While the USA came away disappointed in their play on the field, tournament organizers have to be excited about the turnout and enthusiasm from the fans. With an estimated 50,000+ fans in attendance over the two days of the tournament, the USA 7’s have broken through. Add in a great broadcast from NBC on Saturday and Sunday and this weekend may have been a seminal moment for the commercial viability of rugby in America.