USA Men’s Sevens finish eighth in a weekend of highs and lows in Los Angeles

Mon, Mar 4, 2024, 4:27 AM
by Taylor Dean
Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Men’s Sevens began their home tournament in Los Angeles in dominating fashion, defeating New Zealand in pool play and breaking an 11-game losing streak. But the squad faltered in the knockouts, taking an eighth place finish to notch six SVNS points. 

It was a special weekend for Captain Kevon Williams, who ran out for his 50th SVNS tournament, and Perry Baker, who scored his 280th try, surpassing Collins Injera to become the second-highest all time try scorer in sevens history. Orrin Bizer also joined the squad for the home tour, while Adam Channel withdrew due to illness. 

With one point now separating the USA from ninth place on the series, the team will head back to Chula Vista to reset and focus on improvements for a challenging pool in Hong Kong. HSBC Hong Kong SVNS kicks off Friday, April 5, live on RugbyPass. 

Comments from Head Coach Mike Friday: 

“We were confident going into the quarterfinal, and we did adopt and execute our strategy. But the first three possessions we had against France, we gifted them simple detail mistakes which gave the ball straight back to a very physical and impressive French team. We had three opportunities to score and we didn’t take them, and we had two defensive errors to be 14-0 down at halftime. That opportunity to get the momentum shift was lost, and we have to give credit to France who controlled the ball for five minutes with six players. They earned their victory after absorbing that red card.

That loss against Australia wasn’t how we wanted to finish, but we also had to make the right player decisions going forward as we look forward to Hong Kong. What’s most important after that game is that we come back 100% healthy to be in the best state to kick on. In that last game, we made some small errors in the first half, which has been the story of our weekend, which gave Australia a lead we weren’t able to catch up to in time. I’m pleased with the attitude, endeavor, and work ethic of the squad. We just need to tidy up our accuracy and details in the small moments. 

I’m really pleased with the progress we’re making. We are capable of beating any team on any day or at any moment. I was really pleased with our execution in the Samoa game, and I was really pleased with our fight, work ethic, and smart play in the New Zealand game. To finally get that win is great, and it illustrates where we are, how good we are and can be. It’s just getting details wrong individually that we need to get better at. If we do that, we can hang with anybody and make sure we are in that group of eight in Madrid.” 

Tournament Recap

The Dawgs commenced their home tour against Pacific powerhouse Samoa. The first few minutes were a fight for possession, with Samoa taking the first try of the game. But their kickoff didn’t go 10 meters, giving the USA a midfield scrum and setting up Kevon Williams for a quick try moments after running out for his 50th cap. Samoa continued to push their physicality, and the USA continued to match it as they fought hard for possession. Heading into the second half down 7-12, the Dawgs needed to find their confidence and connection with each other. That cohesion was evident off the bat, as Aaron Cummings won the USA kickoff for possession, setting up for Naima Fuala’au to chip it through Samoa’s defenders, where Perry Baker was waiting to pick it up for a try. The second half was USA-dominant, shutting out Samoa with Williams scoring a second try on the wing and Madison Hughes earning another seven after converting his own try. Orrin Bizer ended the match with the final try of this second half comeback, giving the USA a 31-12 win to start off Los Angeles SVNS. 

Heading into day two with energy, the USA commenced their second pool match against Australia with high-pressure defense to win possession. The Dawgs worked hard to get into Australia territory and spent the majority of the first half working towards the try zone. Australia on attack kicked the ball far down field to get out of their territory, but it was the USA who earned the first points of the match down the middle with one minute left in the first half. Australia responded before the whistle with five points. The second half began with another fight for possession as both teams had some ball handling errors with USA taking most possession time, but Malacchi Esdale finally found the power to increase their lead. With less than two minutes, Australia were able to keep the ball alive and find defense holes to tie the score for extra time. The USA had one more chance to take the golden point, and they kept possession until a missed pass sent the ball into Australia's hands who quickly scored off a line out, winning the game 12-17. 

The Dawgs knew they needed a win in their final pool match against New Zealand to ensure a spot in the quarterfinals but the All Blacks Sevens were the first to hit the try zone with dummy passes that disorganized USA defenders. But it only lit a fire in the USA to get Perry Baker back-to-back tries that left New Zealand scrambling. A yellow card to the All Blacks gave the Dawgs another chance for the USA to score. Aaron Cummings offloaded mid-tackle to an awaiting Joe Schroeder who completed the play. A try saving tackle by Lucas Lacamp took the game to halftime with the USA in a healthy lead. Back to full strength in the second half New Zealand was finding their footing. Malacchi Esdale pushed through defenders for one more USA try, but later took a yellow card for interference, letting New Zealand have the final say. But the USA stayed strong and won their first matchup with the All Blacks in the last 12 meetings, booking their ticket to the quarterfinal, 28-19. 

A quarterfinal matchup against France would prove to be a tough one. With fatigue setting in and a slippery field tripping up players throughout the day, clinical play was crucial. Both teams were playing fast and physical, but it was the French who took two tries in the first half despite a yellow card. A second yellow card to Theo Forner in the second half sent him off the field with a red, and the USA had a fighting chance with a one-man advantage. But France’s defense was too strong to get through, pressuring the USA well to make errors and keep them at bay. A scoreless second half gave the win to France in a heartbreaking quarterfinal loss, 0-14. 

Points differentials sent the Dawgs to the seventh place playoff with a rematch against Australia. Looking for one more win on home soil, the USA were determined to put on a show. But Australia began on attack, with the USA working hard to tire them out. But a series of quick offloads got Australia the first score of the game. Another try left the USA working hard to close defensive spaces. After a dominant Australian possession, the Dawgs finally got the ball, where Perry was waiting on the wing to fly into the try zone, scoring his 280th career try to end the first half. In the second half, Marcus Tupuola skipped out of defender hands to score under the posts, bringing up the USA score. But penalties at breakdown kept the USA from keeping possession, ceding the game to Australia, 14-24.

The Dawgs will recharge ahead of Hong Kong SVNS and work on improving their details as they work toward the end of the series. HSBC Hong Kong SVNS kicks off Friday, April 5, live on RugbyPass.

USA Men's Sevens Roster | Los Angeles SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Aaron Cummings Forward 19
5. Joe Schroeder Forward 35
6. Kevon Williams (C) Halfback/Wing 50
7. Naima Fuala’au Halfback 27
8. Malacchi Esdale Wing/Center 23
9. Stephen Tomasin Utility 57
11. Perry Baker Wing 68
12. Lucas Lacamp Center/10 18
14. Marcus Tupuola Halfback/Center 29
18. Adam Channel Utility 15
28. Ben Pinkelman Forward 39
30. Madison Hughes Halfback 57
77. Maka Unufe Center/10 51

USA Men's Sevens Traveling Staff | Los Angeles SVNS

Head Coach | Mike Friday 

Assistant Coach | Phil Greening

Strength & Conditioning | Josh Schnell

Athletic Trainer | Brian Gardner 

Team Manager | Scott Novack 

Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner

Media Manager | Taylor Dean

USA Men's Sevens Los Angeles Results

Pool Play

v Samoa | 31-12 (W)

v Australia | 12-17 (L)

v New Zealand | 28-19 (W)


QF v France | 0-14 (L)

7th Place Playoff v Australia | 14-24 (L)