Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Team USA finished its Pan American Games debut in rugby sevens with a bronze medal victory, 21-17, against Uruguay on Sunday, the final day of the Games. They qualified into the bronze medal game after defeating Guyana, 24-12, in the quarterfinal and suffering a, 21-19, loss to Canada in the semifinal. The U.S. finished with an overall record of 3-2-1.
“Everything they do is a continuous improvement,” said head coach Al Caravelli in regard to the team’s Pan Ams performance. “For us, everything is a journey toward 2016. Every step of the way, the goal is to play better than the game before.”
The USA Men’s Sevens team will begin the HSBC Sevens World Series this November in Gold Coast Australia, the first of the nine-tournament Series.
USA v. Guyana – Quarterfinal
The Eagles got off to a screaming start in the quarterfinals, with Folau Niua crossing the line early in the first half. A few minutes later, from deep in their own half, Niua got a call from Blaine Scully on the wing and put in a deft crosskick which Scully finished brilliantly, running a good 80 meters, either burning past or shrugging off every defender in his path. Niua converted and the USA was looking solid. Guyana scored a try on an opportunistic blindside run, but the USA answered back. The newcomer, Niua, exacted blindside revenge by darting down the touchline for a score of his own. The score was 17-5 at the half.
The second half just got away from Guyana, and the repaired Eagles defense held well against a quick Guyanese side. Another score from Guyana put the Eagles in a bit of hot water, but luckily Rocco Mauer used his devastating speed to score a nice cushion try right under the posts with time ticking down. The final score was 24-12.
USA v. Canada – Semifinal
The Eagles came into the semifinal match feeling strong after their victory over Guyana in the quarterfinals. The match saw no scoring for the first four and a half minutes until Maka Unufe crossed the try line to give the Eagles a 5-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first half. Folau Niua was unable to convert the try, which turned out to be the point difference in the game. Shortly after the Eagles scored their points, Canada crossed the try line and took a 7-5 lead into the break.
After the restart Canada was able to capitalize on an early Eagle turnover and score a converted try to take a 14-5 lead. The Eagles would not be put away so easily in a match with such great importance. With just under three minutes to play, Blaine Scully trotted in to the try zone and after the Niua conversion the score stood in favor of Canada at 14-12. Shortly after Scully’s try, Roland Suniula timed a great run and touched down to give the Eagles a 19-14 lead with just over a minute to play. Unfortunately Canada was able score a dramatic try with 30 seconds to play and they watched the clock wind down as they kicked their conversion. The final score stood at 21-19, placing the Eagles in the Bronze medal match against Uruguay. Canada went on to win the Gold medal, defeating Argentina in the final.
USA v. Uruguay – Bronze Medal Match
The Eagles began their match with Uruguay on the defensive end and were putting solid pressure on them until a loose ball led to a Uruguay kick and try. The successful conversion gave them an early 7-0 lead. The Eagles were in their own territory once again when they stole a lineout and were able to swing the ball out wide where Mile Pulu hit a great gap and scampered 70 meters for a try under the posts and an easy conversion by Niua.
Late in the first half Pulu made another break followed by a nice offload to Blaine Scully whose run at the try line was stopped, leaving the score 7-7 at the half. Throughout the first half the Eagles were able to create offense through their strong lineout defense and counter-attacks, which turned out to be the game-changer at the end of the match.
At the restart the Eagles received the ball but were unable to hold on to possession which led to a quick try in the corner for Uruguay. The crucial missed conversion put the score at 12-7. The Eagles were able to respond after a nice phase swung the ball outside and, after a loose pass, into the hands of Unufe who was able to put a great move on two Uruguay defenders and take the ball strongly in under the posts for a converted try and a 14-12 USA lead. Uruguay was able to score another try with just under two minutes left to take a 17-14 lead and put serious pressure on the Eagles.
Rocco Mauer came into the game and quickly received the ball outside but quickly turned it over after an errant chip sailed into touch. The staunch Eagle lineout defense came through again by putting significant pressure on Uruguay which kept them on the sidelines and eventually brought them into touch for a turnover and a USA lineout for the final play of the match. Zack Test took the lineout and the Eagles were able to swing it out wide and avoid a tackle until they reached midfield where Test made a great break for the game-winning try, ensuring medal glory for the USA. Niua’s foot proved invaluable as he converted his third try of the match and was the difference maker in the point totals.
Team USA 2011 Pan-American Games Squad
Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians; Ames, Iowa)
Colin Hawley (Olympic Club of San Francisco; Trowbridge, Calif.)
Rocco Mauer (Chicago Lions; Cleveland, Ohio)
Folau Niua (San Francisco Golden Gate; East Palo Alto, Calif.)
Milemoti Pulu (San Francisco Golden Gate; East Palo Alto, Calif.)
Nu’u Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach; Seattle, Wash.)
Blaine Scully (Unattached; Sacramento, Calif.)
Roland Suniula (Boston; Boston, Mass.)
Shalom Suniula (Belmont Shore; San Diego, Calif.)
Zack Test (At Large; Palo Alto, Calif.)
Peter Tiberio (University of Arizona; Naperville, Ill.)
Maka Unufe (Utah Warriors; Provo, Utah)
Head Coach Al Caravelli (Ridgefield, Conn.)
Asst Coach Dave Williams (Denver, Colo.)
Video Analyst Paul Goulding(Aspen, Colo.)
Physio/TC Kristen Douhan (Denver, Colo.)