Big improvements for USA Men’s Sevens despite seventh place finish at Perth SVNS

Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Men’s Sevens finished seventh at HSBC Perth SVNS, but the squad saw big improvements with the addition of their most senior players. Winning four out of five matches through the weekend, the team will take away winning big moments to improve on their placement. 

Perry Baker, Kevon Williams, Stephen Tomasin, and Joe Schroeder’s presence were missed on the series, and their impact showed in Perth. The squad also showed improved connection with each other and will work to keep that cohesiveness and work ethic at 100% as they return to training ahead of their next two West Coast stops in Vancouver and Los Angeles. HSBC Vancouver SVNS will kick off Friday, February 23, live on RugbyPass TV. 

Comments from Head Coach Mike Friday on the team’s Perth SVNS performance: 

“When we look at the performance over the weekend, to go 4-1, it’s real progress from Dubai and Cape Town with the more experienced boys coming in. More importantly, the chemistry and the continuity in attack was improved. We played with real purpose, freedom, and we played some really exciting stuff. Defensively, we were relentless. We caused real havoc. When we take a step back and look at the performance over the weekend, I’m really pleased and proud of what the boys have achieved and moved forward to actually be more like themselves.

In that quarterfinal against Australia, I don’t think we showed up. Our attitude was slightly off, and a very shrewd, wily Australia team who learned from the pool game pushed the boundaries on some of the breakdowns. As a consequence, they were able to win the moments and get momentum to score some tries. That was hugely disappointing but a lesson for the guys to learn the brutality of knockout rugby. If you’re just slightly off, whether that’s in attitude or work ethic, then you get punched in the face. 

The important takeaway is that we should be confident that the series realizes that we’re a proper handful with ball in hand. Our Dawgs aggression and work ethic in defense is clear to be seen. The big lesson is that we have to do that every time all the time, and we can’t afford to be slightly off in any moment, any game. Games can quickly run away from you, so there are lots to build on as we head to Vancouver and our home stop in LA.”

Tournament Recap

The USA kicked off their first Pool B match against Australia, the tournament hosts with pressure to win in front of their home crowd. The entire first half of the match remained 0-0, with both teams missing opportunities and conceding turnovers at key moments. The scramble for control continued into the second half, where Australia found their footing to take two tries and expand a hefty lead with the minutes ticking down. But it wasn’t long for Maka Unufe and Perry Baker to find their connection with each other and remind the series what we were missing as Unufe assisted Baker to two tries to even the score, sending the game to extra time. The USA found themselves on the attacking side and immediately built momentum for Malacchi Esdale to break away and score that golden point, winning their first game of the weekend 19-14. 

The Dawgs’ matched up with Ireland for their second pool match, with both sides making easy mistakes early on. But it was Kevon Williams who scored the first points of the game off an inside pass from Lucas Lacamp, setting up the USA with early confidence. An energized USA side got Naima Fuala’au over the try line just moments later, with the squad’s great connections and work rate on full display. Perry Baker upped the USA score before half time with his show of speed. In the second half, Ireland found some more control, but the USA kept on the pressure for Malacchi Esdale to break away from a scrum for a try, helping the Eagles win the game 26-7.

The Dawgs’ final pool match was against Great Britain. With two wins under their belts, the USA had high energy from the start. While strong on offense, some minor errors gave Great Britain attacking chances. The USA defense was stronger, though, as they mirrored their opponents’ line out perfectly to steal possession, setting Perry Baker up for the first try of the game. The USA continued to put pressure on defense and take advantage of loose Great Britain balls, which helped Joe Schroeder to swoop in and score twice. Great Britain had the final say with five points, but the USA still dominated 17-10, securing the top spot in their pool and a guaranteed ticket to the quarterfinals. 

The Eagles’ quarterfinal game saw a rematch with hosts Australia, who had the home crowd advantage. Their dominant win in the pool stages had the USA confident in their abilities, but Australia was determined to reverse the score and chase a cup final on home soil. The USA held strong for the majority of the first half, finding space to gain ground but unable to finish their plays. A yellow card to Perry Baker put Australia at advantage going into the second half as the Eagles kept up their momentum builds. A high tackle on Steve Tomasin gave away a penalty try to the USA and a yellow card to Australia, but the Eagles couldn’t take advantage through the rest of the match, ending the game 7-31.

Reeling from a tough loss, the Eagles had to recuperate for the 7th place playoff against Spain. It was evident from the start that the squad put the quarterfinal match behind them, as they quickly earned back possession from their kickoff, setting Perry Baker up to win a foot race to score two tries early on. Baker went to the sin bin for interference, but the Eagles only conceded one try during the Spain power play. Aaron Cummings scored a try off the restart with one man down, and Malacchi Esdale sailed over the try line with some great pace. Back on the field, Perry Baker scored the last try for the Eagles, earning him a hat trick achievement alongside his 270th career try. A dominant 27-12 finish ended the Dawgs’ time in Perth on a high note. 

Heading back to the Chula Vista, the USA Men’s Sevens will rest as they prepare for double header stops at Vancouver SVNS and then on home turf at Los Angeles SVNS. HSBC Vancouver SVNS will kick off Friday, February 23, live on RugbyPass TV. 

USA Men’s Sevens Roster | 2024 Perth SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Aaron Cummings Forward 17
5. Joe Schroeder Forward 33
6. Kevon Williams (C) Halfback/Wing 48
7. Naima Fuala’au Halfback 25
8. Malacchi Esdale Wing/Center 21
9. Stephen Tomasin Utility 55
11. Perry Baker Wing 66
12. Lucas Lacamp Center 16
13. Orrin Bizer Forward 3
14. Marcus Tupuola Halfback/Center 27
17. Lance Williams Forward 5
30. Madison Hughes Halfback 55
77. Maka Unufe Center/Halfback 49

USA Men’s Sevens Traveling Staff | 2024 Perth SVNS

Head Coach | Mike Friday 

Strength & Conditioning | Josh Schnell

Athletic Trainer | Brian Gardner 

Team Manager | Scott Novack 

USA Men’s Sevens Results | 2024 Perth SVNS

Pool B

v Australia | 19-14 (W)

v Ireland | 26-7 (W)

v Great Britain | 17-10 (W)

Knockouts

QF v Australia | 7-31 (L)

7th Place Playoff v Spain | 27-12 (W)

Share