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Eagle Men 3rd in Vegas

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Eagle Men 3rd in Vegas

Folau Niua was flying high on Sunday. David Barpal photo.

Day three started for the Eagles with a shot at the Cup as they faced South Arica.

While the Blitzbokke have been almost unbeatable all day. Well, they looked beatable against the Eagles on US soil, and only a very harsh call at the end of the game led to a South Africa win.

Photos David Barpal.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.
USA 7s rugby team at the 2017 USA 7s in Las Vegas. David Barpal photo.

The game started with Folau Niua’s kickoff going ten meters in the air and being blown back by the stiff wind. That worked great for the Americans, as they recovered the ball and attacked. Niua was impressive in getting through gaps, Andrew Durutalo steamrolled a tackler, and then he offloaded to Stephen Tomasin who scored for the lead.

The Eagles got the ball right back on the kick and Niua was once again right in the middle of the action. South Africa was penalized twice, getting a yellow card for not retreating ten meters, and while Durutalo was held up on the quick-tap, the ensuing scrum led to a try. And it was Niua who sold an outrageous dummy and went in under the posts.

That made it 12-0 USA. But South Africa came back, punishing USA penalties. Two tries later it was 12-10.

A counter-ruck in their own 22 gave the USA another try. The ball squirted out of the ruck and Perry Baker toed the ball ahead, recovered it, and offloaded to Maka Unufe. The speedster weaved around and the fed Danny Barrett, who set up Durutalo with an excellent pas. It was a try that went the length of the field and across the field as well.

Up 15-12, the Eagles had a chance to run out the clock. Hughes scampered through a gap out of his own 22. He was tackled, and released the ball. Trying to get up he was slammed to the ground by the South African tackler, who had never released Hughes. South Africa got the penalty, tapped, and scored, but Hughes had a very good argument that it should have been a penalty for the USA.

Still the Eagles had a shot to win it. Hughes kicked deep for Baker to chase, but the ball rolled to touch. Still Barrett stole the lineout, and the USA could have set themselves up for a try, but South Africa stole the ball back and the game was over.

It was not the kindest of endings for the Eagles, and certainly they were frustrated.

 

Next up then was the 3rd/4th game against New Zealand. Unafraid, the Eagles attacked immediately. With the wind playing havoc with the ball in the air, they stayed with short crashball passes in the middle. They worked the phases and then Unufe spun out of contact to score.

New Zealand came back, working off a yellow card and then scored to make it 7-5 USA. In the second half, New Zealand scored quickly  through Tim Mikkelson to make it 10-7.

Unfazed the Eagles came back. More short passes set up Barrett up the middle, and he got 30 meters before New Zealand was penalized. New Zealand put in a series of desperate tackles but eventually there was space for Barrett, and over he went.

The key for the USA was that with the wind conversions were almost impossible. But the USA scored both of their tries in front of the posts, and Tomasin (with Hughes injured and on the bench) kicked both conversions.

New Zealand replied with a minute to go with Molie going the distance. The USA caught a break as Niua tried to kick the ball away as Molie touched it down. That could have been a penalty try, or a penalty after the conversion attempt. Referee Craig Joubert just told him to knock it off. So with the score New Zealand 15 and USA 14, and almost n time left, the Eagles got one mor shot. Barrett broke through again. He was taken down, but a high tackle on Tomasin

With no time left the USA patiently moved to ball from Barrett to Niua to Ben Pinkelman, who popped a ball to Durutalo on a perfect line and the USA had it won, 19-15.

(The penalty was on Baudein Waaka for a high tackle on Tomasin, which was a good call, but Waaka should have been yellow-carded for his tackle on Barrett, which was a no-wrap tackle, and probably should have led to a penalty try.)

Regardless of the calls or non-calls, it was a superb effort from a USA team that is starting to find its voice. That voice, loud and clear, comes from the former Cal All American Danny Barrett. With the narrow field taking Perry Baker somewhat out of the picture, and with Hughes sidelined in the Bronze Medal match, Barrett was superb. Maka Unufe was brilliant, and Folau Niua showed he’s not just a kicker and passer, producing some beautiful clearouts in the rucks.

So 3rd place for the USA, and were it not for a bad call in the semis, they would have done even better. They allowed England to come back to beat them, but mounted comebacks of their own, notably Argentina and New Zealand. 

They will pass Wales and Scotland in the World Series standings, and will now be tied with Australia for 52 points, which is 5th (tiebreaker is points difference.” 

 

USA Record at the USA 7s in Las Vegas

USA 26 Samoa 5

USA 31 Chile 0

USA 17 England 24

USA  21 Argentina 19

USA 17 South Africa 20

USA 19 New Zealand 15