USA Men’s Sevens aim to improve on quarterfinal momentum in Dubai

Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Men’s Sevens’ eighth place finish at Emirates Dubai Sevens was a tough result the squad will look to improve on after a quarterfinal appearance, but saw some positive moments as well as some revelations for work-ons after the first SVNS Series stop of 2023. 

The Eagles finished the top of Pool C with two wins under their belts, to meet some challenging opponents in knockouts on day two. Ben Pinkelman and Madison Hughes made big impacts on their return to the series circuit, and Orrin Bizer made his mark on the global stage for his HSBC SVNS debut. Despite missing key players Kevon Williams, Joe Schroeder, Perry Baker, and Stephen Tomasin, the mix of young and veteran talent stepped into Dubai confident in progressing to the knockout stages and now head into Cape Town with clear work-ons to improve on the opening weekend.  

Comments from Head Coach Mike Friday: 

“It’s a steep learning curve. We played some really good stuff, and then today was quite tough in terms of just letting us down on basics and fundamentals, which meant that those games got away from us. We have to learn the brutality of sevens really quickly as a young team and recognize that there is a lot of experience being left at home at the moment for valid reasons. It’s tough and inconsistent at the moment, but there are a lot of positives to take away, especially from day one and a lot of learnings from day two. 

The challenge is to focus on getting the basics right and making sure we’re on point. Those basics are the little things that let us down that then created the momentum shifts to eat away at our confidence. Lifting pods against New Zealand, ball presentation, throwing loose passes - those are the simple things we need to tighten up on. There isn’t a lot wrong, there are a lot of positives in the way we’re attacking and defending. The work ethic and behaviors we want as men are also spot on.”

Tournament Recap

The USA met Fiji for their first Pool C match, and it was clear from the start that they would be a strong force to fight. The Eagles matched their energy for much of the game, with Marcus Tupuola and Malacchi Esdale scoring two breakthrough tries to up the USA score, with Esdale scoring his 50th career try. The teams were tied as the clock wore down, but it was Fiji who kept up the energy to finish the game with one more try, ending it 14-21. Despite the loss, the Eagles displayed good connections with each other and should have confidence heading into their next match. 

The confidence was in full force against Great Britain, who made a statement in the first minute of the game with a try. The Eagles would dominate most of the game, though, as Marcus Tupuola responded quickly with +5, and another right off of the kickoff. Malacchi Esdale scored twice against Great Britain with effortless flow off of strong phase play. The head was setting in, but the Eagles stayed strong and only let Great Britain through again once more. The connection and communication between the Dawgs kept up, and Madison Hughes completed some phase play with a carry over to Aaron Cummings, who dove over the try line. The dominant game ended with a 36-12 win, a solid turnaround from match one. 

A final pool matchup against France would be the final determination for quarterfinal qualification. The Eagles looked at ease heading into the match, and their confidence and dominance shone at the start. Lucas Lacamp reminded everyone how quick he is with a chip and chase that brought them down into scoring territory. A few phases later, Lucas was on the wing for the first points of the game. Ben Pinkelman and Madison Hughes made their own statement tries, proving that they are back and making impacts. Hughes also kicked two conversions, adding to his point total as the highest scoring USA man on the series. France was able to break through USA defenses, which faltered a bit near the end of the second half, but Malacchi Esdale’s breakaway try sealed the deal for a USA win 26-14, securing the Dawgs’ spot in the Emirates Dubai 7s quarterfinals. 

The Dawgs came into their quarterfinal against New Zealand with confidence, and their chop tackles and defensive line showed it at the start. But it would be short lived, as the All Blacks found ways to stretch the USA’s defense. On the other side of the ball, New Zealand kept on the pressure and kept the Eagles far away from the try zone, keeping the score 0-40 and sending the USA to the 7th place playoff against Australia.

The Eagles refocused in to find the confidence they had on day one, and their 7th place playoff began with a renewed energy. Captain Ben Pinkelman scored first within the first seconds of kickoff thanks to a few assists in the opening plays. Soon after, a yellow card to Lucas Lacamp for a dangerous tackle led Australia to capitalize and put their name on the board. The Eagles fought hard throughout the 14 minutes, but it only paid off one more time with Malacchi diving over the try line. It quickly became Australia’s game, and they were able to extend their lead and take the seventh place title with a 12-26 win.

The USA will take a few lessons from this weekend as they reset for Cape Town to find the positive moments and make them last longer. Cape Town SVNS kicks off Saturday, December 9, broadcast information to be announced soon.

USA Men’s Sevens Traveling Roster | 2023 Emirates Dubai SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Aaron Cummings Forward 14
2. Ben Broselle Forward/Center 17
3. Jack Wendling Forward 4
7. Naima Fuala’au Halfback 23
8. Malacchi Esdale Wing/Center 19
12. Lucas Lacamp Center 14
13. Orrin Bizer* Forward 1
14. Marcus Tupuola Halfback/Center 25
17. Lance Williams Forward 3
18. Adam Channel Forward 11
23. Will Chevalier Halfback 2
25. Pita Vi Center/Wing 5
28. Ben Pinkelman (C) Forward 37
30. Madison Hughes Halfback 53

USA Men’s Sevens Traveling Staff

Head Coach | Mike Friday

Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner

Strength & Conditioning | Josh Schnell

Athletic Trainer | Bryan Gardner

Team Manager | Scott Novack

Media Manager | Taylor Dean

USA Men’s Sevens Emirates Dubai SVNS Results

Saturday, December 2

Pool C

v Fiji | 21-14 (L)

v Great Britain | 12-36 (W)

v France | 14-26 (W)

Sunday, December 3

Quarterfinal v New Zealand | 0-40 (L)

7th Place Playoff v Australia | 12-26 (L)