GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

Not Good Enough; Eagles Slip in LA Mud

irish rugby tours

Not Good Enough; Eagles Slip in LA Mud

Not enough space because the passing is too slow and flat. David Barpal photo.

After putting together a string of results that were, quite frankly, a pleasant surprise, the USA Men’s 7s team is just playing some bad rugby.

Gone is much in the way of variety of play. Gone is the idea that time and space are precious.

Analysis/Opinion by Alex Goff

On Sunday in LA, against Spain, which is not a very good team, the USA looked unable to do anything but pass the ball, slowly, inexorably slowly, from sideline to sideline until Perry Baker had enough space to score.

The direct pass is a wonderful weapon in 7s. But a loopy pass can be death. A loopy pass can take twice as much time to get to the recipient, and that extra second gives defenses time to hone in on said recipient.

So the Eagles sent loopy, flat, too-high pass after loopy, flat, too-high pass which meant that no one had time to do anything.

Gone is the moment where Kevon Williams bursts onto a flat pass and cuts up the middle. Gone is Marcus Tupuola making a blitzing defender miss and thus opening up an opportunity. It’s as if the USA thinks scoring tries between the 15-meter dash marks if for suckers.

We don’t see Aaron Cummings on the field, and Cummings, defensively, is one of the team’s better tacklers and poachers. And against everyone the USA was tackling too high (trying to tie up the ball, stop it) and against both Chile and Spain, they couldn’t get the ball back. 

This USA team looked sluggish, unimaginative, and less skilled than the team that finished 3rd in Cape Town and Hamilton.

Yes they’d love to have Lucas Lacamp back. Yes it’s intriguing news that Matai Leuta is back in camp and working toward 7s fitness. But whether it’s a lack of trust from Head Coach Mike Friday or his staff, or a lack of trust from team leadership, or some in-team fix that has seen ripples eviscerate their offensive ingenuity, this is a team playing it safe, and you can’t score making safe passes and playing slowly.

Witness the fact that the Eagles squandered two consecutive yellow cards with scrums (hey Spain, would you like to waste time and work off the card, please, let us help you!). They appeared afraid to tap it and run.

Yes, against Spain, with the USA down 14-12, they were the victim of one of the most egregious non-calls for a late tackle we’ve ever seen. But they shouldn’t have been in that position. They should have been up by 20 points.

Against Kenya the USA was marginally better and perhaps Kenya's passing was even worse. Certainly the American team's first try was all about what I've been talking about above—Tupuola makes a move up the middle, pops an offload, and then Malacchi Esdale and David Still execute a nice loop move to put Esdale over. But they gave that right back with a restart error and players being caught in the ruck, leaving holes in the defense.

But once again attacking the middle produced tries in the second half—Esdale cut back inside to make it 14-12 (Kenya leading) and then Tupuola's elusiveness and tenacity in traffic allowed Stepen Tomasin to score.

They backed that up with a nifty kick ahead for Faitala Talapusi to chase and score. Where was that earlier on Sunday? Where was that on Saturday? Where was that in Hamilton? They held on after that, giving up a try and then a maul ends the game (barely). 

A victory? Thankfully yes. But a victory that exposed what we aren't seeing on a regular basis.

Maybe when we hinted that the Eagles were poised to be in the top four and garner automatic Olympic qualification were counted our chickens before they were hatched. OK, those chickens, in our opinion, have hatched, and they are coming home to roost.

Something has to change in how this team attacks and defends.