The USA Men’s Sevens completed their second 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stop with a fourth place finish in Dubai, where they earned the top spot of their pool play with a 3-0 record.
The semifinal and bronze medal matches ended in heartbreak, but the Eagles took away important lessons for the rest of the Olympic qualifying season.
Head coach Mike Friday’s comments post-tournament: “Overall I am very pleased with the group and how they went about their business. The attitude and commitment toward one another and the cause was where we needed and expected it to be. It was exciting to see the chemistry of the group evolve in competition.”
On day one of Dubai 7s, the USA displayed team cohesion and played to their individual strengths. With key players back from reserve, including captain Kevon Williams, the USA took full advantage of their veteran squad. In the pool stages, the Eagles came away with exhilarating wins against Canada, Japan, and Samoa.
The men’s border battle with their northern neighbors featured standout plays by the USA, opening with Lucas Lacamp earning the critical first try. David Still showed his own stride and athleticism by running half the field for another thrilling play, adding more points on the board for the USA. Marcus Tupuola proved he was unstoppable as he ran wide open toward the try line. Canada demonstrated how lethal they can be at turnovers, but a final knock ended the game, 19-14 for the USA.
Later in the day, the Eagles matched up against Japan, where they earned several solid tries in the first few minutes of the game. Every starting USA player earned an opportunity to dive over the try line, and the USA headed into their final pool match with a 43-7 win against Japan.
The USA’s third match was a heart-pumping match up against formidable opponents in Samoa. They displayed strong and quick offense early in the game, but USA kept the pressure on, forcing penalties and earning opportunities to play their solid set pieces. The Eagles played with confidence, displaying great offloads and plays, including Lacamp’s ability to fight off several tacklers to get the first try. With five minutes left in play, Perry Baker passed backward toward Kevon Williams who found a gap and carried the ball over the try line. The Eagles kept up solid defense to win 14-12 and head into a quarterfinal matchup against Australia.
“Pool play was very tricky for us and we applied ourselves very well in each of the games. We made mistakes, which allowed the opponents to stay in the games, especially Canada and Samoa. We talked about focusing our attention on the basics. Some of our pass and catch consistency and some of our chop tacking was not at the standard required if we have the ambition to go deep and win tournaments.”
Heading into the quarterfinal, the Eagles found their footing early against Australia. Joe Schroeder put pressure on Australia’s line out to take the ball back. From that play, Perry Baker carried it into Australia territory and passed to Steve Tomasin for the try. Still found his stride a few minutes later, skipping and running around the defense to add more points for the USA. Clinical phases found Australia in our territory for a few points of their own, but the Eagles responded swiftly with more points from Marcus Tupuola and Baker, who continued to stand out in the match with his speed and evasiveness to earn the USA their winning try. A 24-19 victory locked the Eagles in for a semifinal showdown against Ireland.
Friday’s comments after the quarterfinal, “It was a fierce match against the current Series champions and in-form team of Australia. We applied ourselves exceptionally well at restarts as well as asserting ourselves physically in the breakdowns and some of the attacking support.”
Chasing their 11th cup final in history, the USA won four of their last five meetings with Ireland, most recently Hong Kong. The semifinal started off fast and furious, and the Eagles worked to keep up defense, but Ireland found a way to fend them off and get the first points. The USA fought to regain possession several times, but forced penalties kept the ball going back and forth between the teams. A focus on perseverance kept up momentum going into the second half, and the motivation paid off with Baker scoring a try off a critical offload by Malacchi Esdale. The score 7-7 at final whistle, regulation took the match to extra time.
Penalties kept the teams going back to their set pieces. A forward pass by the Eagles gave the ball back to Ireland, who found a gap through our defense to carry it over our try line to win 7-12.
Friday added, “It was an arm wrestle of a semi. We had our chances which ultimately didn’t go our way. We had two opportunities in extra time where we didn’t execute simple pass and catch, allowing Ireland to stay in the game and ultimately secure the golden point and win.”
Moving into the bronze final, the USA took a power play early on with a yellow card to New Zealand. The Eagles focused on stretching the All Blacks Sevens’ defense, and it paid off with Aaron Cummings carrying and offloading to Tupuola, who earned the first try of the match. In the second half, Esdale threaded the needle for a stunning offload to Ben Broselle, who carried the ball down the field for a try. On the defensive side, the USA made some big tackles, but New Zealand was able to find the gaps and break through for a 31-12 win.
“I was pleased with our energy and commitment in the first half and we were highly competitive. The lessons that the boys will be able to take from this are ones we can look to build on next weekend.”
Looking ahead to next week, the USA Men’s Sevens traveling roster remains the same as they head to Cape Town for their third stop in the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The men will recover and reflect from this weekend and will look to ensure the attitude and collective work ethic remains as intense as this week.
Cape Town Sevens begins Friday, December 9, streaming LIVE on Peacock.
|Jersey Number & Name||Position||HSBC Tournaments|
|1. Aaron Cummings||Forward||5|
|2. Ben Broselle||Forward/Wing||13|
|3. David Still||Forward/Wing||10|
|5. Joe Schroeder||Forward||24|
|6. Kevon Williams (C)||Halfback/Wing||38|
|7. Naima Fuala’au||Halfback||16|
|8. Malacchi Esdale||Center/Wing||9|
|9. Stephen Tomasin||Utility||45|
|10. Faitala Talapusi||Halfback||10|
|11. Perry Baker||Wing/Center||58|
|12. Lucas Lacamp||Center/Halfback||8|
|14. Marcus Tupuola||Center/Halfback||16|
|15. Gavan D'Amore||Forward||11|
|24. Lance Williams||Forward||1|