USA Men’s Sevens slip in Singapore

Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Men’s Sevens team head home from their two-week Asia leg of the 2023 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after a disappointing weekend in Singapore. Messy pool play kept the squad out of the quarterfinals, where they found themselves fighting for 13th place. 

The second weekend of a two-week tour is never easy, and the exhaustion was evident among the USA squad. A tough pool play led to ninth place quarterfinals, where the squad couldn’t find their footing in time to take the win. The fight for 13th was a tough affair with opponents in Ireland and Canada, but the Dawgs turned around their weekend to notch two more wins. 

With the 13th place finish, the USA will likely miss out on early Olympic qualification, so will look to earn their 2024 Olympic berth at the regional qualifier this summer. 

Tournament Recap

The USA squad began their Pool C tour with Uruguay, who they’ve defeated in their last five head-to-heads. While the Dawgs had the motivation of winning pool play, Uruguay had the determination to upset the USA and keep themselves out of relegation. It was a quick start for Los Teros, who got the opening score off a penalty conceded by the USA near the try zone, despite a big dive tackle by Lucas Lacamp that kept them at bay a little longer. The Dawgs finally earned a chance to attack as Uruguay lost a player to the sin bin for two minutes. They capitalized quickly on the power play, as Marcus Tupuola skipped over the defense and ran down field for a USA try. Steve Tomasin earned two more points by bagging a conversion from the touch line. He went on to go 3 for 3 in match conversions. Tomasin earned try points of his own by wrestling off tacklers and running under the posts to tie the score at the half. 

Uruguay was first to attack again at the start of the second half, and a surprising kick and chase play earned them another five points. The USA responded quickly with a textbook line out, where Kevon Williams threw the ball and ran to receive from behind to loop around and speed to the try zone. With the minutes ticking down and the score tied, the USA needed to put on the defensive pressure as Los Teros looked for ways to get into USA territory. Steve Tomasin showed his strength in the breakdown with big speed entering to win the ball back, but Uruguay kept wrestling it back and earned a penalty within the last 30 seconds. They went for a penalty goal and ran down the clock to close the game 21-24. 

With a tough first loss in Singapore, the Dawgs had to rally and refocus for their next pool match against Kenya. Any team that plays the Shujaa can expect a hugely physical match, and today’s game was no different. Kenya was the first with the real chance on attack, but a knock on gave a scrum to the USA. Kevon fed and received the ball, who ran the line looking to go wide before finding Perry in the middle, who strikes first under the posts. The Dawgs looked in form in this match, as Lucas Lacamp scored the second try of the match by evading Kenya. Their defense was more organized with more intent in the first half, as the USA knew they needed big tackles against Kenya. The Shujaa were able to barrel their way down the pitch for their first points of the match to end the first half. 

The second half was marked by longer phase plays by both sides, leading to exhausting plays. On attack, Kenya proved to be hard to pull down as they shook off USA defenders and exhausted the squad to make their way for more Kenya points. With ball in hand for the Dawgs, the team spent another long phase play trying to stretch out Kenya’s defense and find the gaps. Another exhausting set of phases ended with a kick to touch for the USA. A textbook line out gave the ball to Perry Baker, who found a gap in the middle and ran through for a game-winning try. It was Kenya with the last say, who ran quickly to USA territory to score the final try but missed the conversion to end the game 21-19. 

Heading into their final pool match against France, the Dawgs needed to win by seven points to get their spot in the quarterfinals. The sense of urgency was felt at the start, as the USA received and played first, sending it wide to Perry Baker who sped away toward the try line. While spinning out of tackles, Baker lost the ball to France’s hands, who bore down to get the opening score. They showed their strength at the restart, turning around for another try. The USA wasn’t going to lose determination, as Aaron Cummings made a big tackle and steal inches away from France getting a third try, and sending the ball to Kevon Williams’ hands, who skirted away and sent the ball to Perry to run and get a USA try. Williams and Baker continued to show off their cohesion, as Williams fed the ball to Baker for more points to end the first half. 

France was quick with their tackles, but the Dawgs did well under the tension, knowing all too well the importance of the match. Earning the ball back in their hands, Williams found a small gap in France’s defense to run up the middle and score again, pushing to the lead and widening the score gap. Just as determined, France managed to skirt away from USA defenses to respond quickly with two more tries of their own. At the restart, Steve Tomasin caught the ball and passed over to Williams, who runs again to score on the side to tie the game. With France in possession, the USA needed to win the ball back and score a converted try. France conceded a penalty past the final whistle, giving the Dawgs the opportunity they needed, but a penalty on their part gave it back to France, who kicked it out to draw the game 26-26, sending the USA to the ninth place quarterfinals. 

Missing out on the quarterfinals was a devastating loss, but the USA had three more games to play in Singapore. With every match as important as the next, the Dawgs set forward for a ninth place quarterfinal matchup against Spain, a team that’s been the Achilles heel for the USA squad the last several tour stops. The USA received at the start, and a good lift for Perry Baker led to patient and organized phase play. The squad built momentum to try and get out of their territory, but a forward pass called possession over to Spain, who are patient in their plays to cut through USA defenses for the first points. The Dawgs responded quickly, as Joe Schroeder lifted the ball back to Kevon Williams mid-tackle to loop around on the outside and run down field for a USA try. 

The rest of the match was in Spain’s control, as the USA struggled to stay together in every moment. Small errors on attack led to turnovers, while open sides on defense let Spain get through several times. The USA had one final attacking moment at the end of the match, when Pita Vi ripped the ball out of Spain's hands, passing it out wide to Malacchi Esdale, who got a final try on the side. The 10-22 loss left the squad feeling dejected, but they had to recuperate for the 13th place semifinal against Ireland. 

Ireland was the first to strike in the match to get the early lead, but the USA responded quickly when Aaron Cummings received the ball at kick off and ran into Ireland territory. The ball went wide to Perry Baker, who scored one of his textbook tries on the side, earning his 260th career try. Ireland worked hard to press forward, but a penalty gave it back to the Dawgs. A lot of the first half was spent wrestling for possession, but the USA did well at breakdowns to get physical and win the ball back. The work paid off for another attacking opportunity, where Naima Fuala’au threw the ball wide to Gavan D’Amore, who scored on the wing to end the first half. 

The second half saw the Dawgs in control of the ball for most of the time, while putting pressure on Ireland to concede penalties and hand over possession. Perry Baker scored another try on the wing again, but Ireland responded quickly with a try of their own. With the minutes ticking down, the USA looked to spread quickly and make their way into Ireland territory. Patient plays got the USA past a desperate Ireland defense, and it was Marcus Tupuola who finished the game 26-12 with the final try, giving the Dawgs another chance at the 13th place playoff. 

It was a classic North American showdown against Canada to close out Singapore Sevens for the Dawgs. With confidence regained following a win against Ireland, the squad came racing out the gates. Pita Vi was the first to strike, running over half the field to earn his first World Series try to open the match and put USA in the early lead. Canada were quick to respond, though, showing they wouldn’t make it an easy match. After earning two tries within minutes of each other, they dove in for another but Gavan D’Amore made a big try saving tackle that ultimately helped decide the game. On attack, the USA built up momentum with big passes out wide, but the ball went to touch before they could make anything happen before halftime. 

Canada showed control early on in the second half, scoring another try and conversion and taking the lead. The USA found the opportunity for attack at the restart though, as Adam Channel picked and ran for his own points. The Dawgs found their footing from that point on, with Perry Baker intercepting a long Canada throw to score again, tying up the game with a minute to go. In Canada’s territory and with ball in hand, it was USA’s turn to have the final say. Play went a minute over the final whistle, but Perry Baker was the one who finished the game with the final try, winning it for the USA 22-17. 

Comments from Head Coach Mike Friday: 

"The truth is we were not good enough when it mattered and made too many critical basic mistakes - be that a skill or a decision that cost us momentum or possession.

It’s no good being great one game and terrible the next. We need to start paying attention to the details as individuals to contribute to the collective, be that in the gym, classroom, training pitch or in competition. That has cost us in these last four tournaments and rules us out of automatic qualification.

This men's series is ridiculously competitive and unless you live and breathe this you can’t comprehend how small the margins are in each and every game.

There are no positive takeaways, just harsh lessons and wake up calls as these young men find their way on the World Series.

We got some serious work to do for Toulouse and London and we also now have a busy summer ahead as we get ready for the North American Olympic qualifier."

USA Men’s Sevens Roster | HSBC Singapore Sevens

Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Aaron Cummings Forward 12
5. Joe Schroeder Forward 30
6. Kevon Williams (C) Halfback/Wing 45
7. Naima Fuala’au Halfback 23
8. Malacchi Esdale Wing/Center 16
9. Stephen Tomasin Utility 52
10. Faitala Talapusi Halfback 17
11. Perry Baker Wing/Center 65
12. Lucas Lacamp Center 11
14. Marcus Tupuola Halfback/Center 23
15. Gavan D'Amore Forward 18
16. Adam Channel Forward 10
25. Pita Vi Halfback 2

USA Men’s Sevens Traveling Staff

Head Coach | Mike Friday

Performance Analyst | Dave Gardner

Strength & Conditioning | Josh Schnell

Athletic Trainer | Bobby Gragston

Team Manager | Scott Novack

USA Men’s Sevens Singapore Results

Pool Play

v. Uruguay | 21-24 (L)

v. Kenya | 21-19 (W)

v. France | 26-26 (D)

9th Place Quarterfinal

v. Spain | 10-22 (L)

13th Place Semifinal

v. Ireland | 26-12 (W)

13th Place Playoff

v. Canada | 22-17 (W)

HSBC Singapore Sevens Results »