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Olympic Men's Rugby Quarterfinals: Momentum Shifts

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Olympic Men's Rugby Quarterfinals: Momentum Shifts

Perry Baker scored two versus Great Britain. Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The USA Men's 7s team's chase for an Olympic medal is over as they lost 26-21 to Great Britain in the quarterfinals.

Once again the Eagles started well, as they surged out to a 21-0 lead. Danny Barrett crashed over for a try, charging up the middle. 

That success forced Great Britain to worry about Barrett, which left some space open on the other side of the field. So ... the ball went out to Perry Baker and he cruised in for a try to make it 14-0. Moments later, off the restart, with a ridiculous tip pass from Martin Iosefo setting up Baker for his second.

In the space of five minutes their big stars had scored three big tries, and Madison Hughes had converted all of them.

And then the wheels fell off. 

Great Britain scored just before halftime, another bad habit the USA was having a tough time getting rid of. Too often they were ceding momentum in this tournament and they did it again. The USA interior defenders looked very slow as GB's Ollie Lindsay-Hague scored up the middle. 

And just in case they were in danger of regaining that momentum, Stephen Tomasin was shown a yellow card for a silly intentional knock-on and seconds later Ben Harris was over for England and it was 21-14. (When you don't trust your teammates to make tackles, you give your own assignment short-shrift. That's what happened there.)

Head Coach Mike Friday ran on fresh legs for the USA but it didn't matter. Great Britain ran in two more tries, from Alex Davis up the middle exposing that slow defense, and Dan Norton getting what a quick pass from a quick tap, and it was done.

(Take note USA ... when you've got a penalty taking a quick tap and feeding your main strike man is often a good idea.)

This was not, overall, a good series of performances. The USA should have won all of their pool games by significant margins, but they made some basic errors—dropping the ball in your own 22, taking on three tacklers when you've got 200-try-scorers open on your outside—that made all of these games way, way closer than they should have been. 

At 21-0, the Eagles were not safe, but should have been.

"We started really well, we took control of the game," said Friday. "We had an opportunity, we just gifted back possession, seven points and that gave them hope. And they held onto that and they clawed themselves back into the game. You've got to give credit to them in terms of the durability.

"As I said to the boys, results don't define you as a man. They don't define you as the individual. That's just part of life. And I think as a group of men, with the way that they carried themselves and the way that they've represented this country themselves, hopefully will inspire young boys and young girls to take up the sport and aspire to be the next group that play in the Olympics."

It is tough to take for the Eagles, but they still have games to play, and face Canada tomorrow in the 5th-place semifinal. Then it's a matchup with either South Africa or Australia. While 5th isn't a medal, it is something they need to target.

"We're hugely gutted," said Friday. "Sevens is brutal, right. Little moments, little referee calls either go your way or don't go your way and that's the difference between being in the medal rounds tomorrow. Unfortunately we've just fallen on the wrong side this evening. And we're going to have to deal with that quickly because we have to come out tomorrow and represent the country once again and try and ensure that we finish as high as we can.

"In America, that sporting landscape is about medals and winning. We understand that challenge, but it's about inspiring as well. There's a bigger picture here. It's about encouraging the sport to be positioned in the high schools to compliment the super sports. So there's another alternative to being that NFL player, that NBA player. It's being an Olympian; taking up a game with great values and excelling."

Day Two Knockout Scores:

Ireland 31 Korea 0 (9th-place SF)
Kenya 21 Japan 7 (9th-place SF)

New Zealand 21 Canada 10 (Quarterfinal)
Great Britain 26 USA 21 (Quarterfinal)
Argentina 19 South Africa 14 (Quarterfinal)
Fiji 19 Australia 0 (Quarterfinal)