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The Key Moments That Dropped the USA Men's Sevens Team to 9th

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The Key Moments That Dropped the USA Men's Sevens Team to 9th

The USA beat France, but the ship had sailed by then. Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

The USA men’s 7s team dropped out of the Top 8 in the SVNS standings and so instead of playing in the final tournament to win, they will be playing at the kid’s table to see if they can come back to the series in 2024-25.

In that tournament they will have to be top four out of eight. It’s completely possible, but before we look at that tournament, let’s look at why they dropped down.

Everything started out great. The Eagles beat Fiji and beat Ireland to go 2-0 in their pool. All they needed to do, then, was keep pace with Great Britain, who were in the same pool and could catch the USA by finishing with eight more points in Singapore.

So on Day Two it was USA vs GB. A win by the USA would put them at 3-0 and drop GB to 1-2. Now, going 1-2 doesn’t necessarily cut you out of the quarterfinals, but this result would. Why do we say that? Easy.

Pool A had New Zealand, Argentina, and Australia at 2-1, meaning their #3 team would easily go into the QFs with a 2-1 record.

So if GB lost to the USA they would end up 1-2 with a maximum points difference of -10. But Spain would end up 1-2 with a points difference of +6, so any loss by GB would have dropped them to the bottom four, and the USA would have clinched Top 8.

The Four Minutes That Hurt

It all started just fine. Stephen Tomasin scored an excellent try combining with Aaron Cummings and Maceo Brown. And then the play we think had a massive effect on the game. As the USA was pressuring Naima Fuala’au sent a pass that was intercepted. Advantage was being played for the Eagles and the play came back; but Fuala’au was hit late, with no wrap, and fell to the ground. He was clearly hurt and really the tackler, Alex Davis, should have been yellow-carded.

To his credit, Fuala’au toughed it out, stayed on the field, and promptly scored. But he was not 100% and should have been subbed out. Because moments later his inability to turn and cover his space led to a GB try.

This was a serious failing of the USA bench. They had to have seen that Fuala’au was in distress, but they did nothing about it.

(That first GB try wasn’t on everyone—other players would want their tackle attempts back but still.)

Fuala’au was still not moving right. A pass to Perry Baker, had it hit him in stride, might have produced a classic Baker long-range try. It was behind him. The USA playmaker then tried to ruck over when Baker was tackled, but he was steamrolled—he was in too much pain to do much. Turnover GB, and a try.

Missed tackles by several USA players led to a third converted British try, and then the Eagles clamped down their defense in the second half and scored another try. But the damage was done, and the damage was done because a player who was not 100% was left on the field.

Upshot—USA loses that game, GB and USA go to the quarterfinals, but the Eagles draw New Zealand, and lose, while GB wins their QF.

Out of the Running

There was still a chance to hold onto 8th, if the USA won their game (they did), and GB lost both (they didn’t, beating Australia for 3rd).

That put GB at 8th, and USA in 9th, playing for a chance to return.

It all, then, came down to one game that needed to be won. A USA team that can beat anyone in the SVNS series, also found they can lose to anyone. The team’s maddening inconsistency finally hurt them.

Things We Hate

We hate the SVNS format. Specifically, because both men and women play in one stadium over three days, the number of games has to be cut. If you lose a quarterfinal, you don’t play a 5th-place semi—you get tracked to the 5th-place game or the 7th-place game. We have to say we’re not quite sure how. 

World Rugby didn’t answer our question about it, and we spent most of the series thinking it was based on the margin of loss in the quarterfinals. Nope, that’s not it. It’s likely something stupid like overall points difference. Whatever it is, that format has hurt the USA, which has lost a ton of quarterfinal matches, but almost never got tracked to the 5th-place game. Something not directly related to the tournament at hand cost them points. We’d like to see that change next year.