USA Men’s Sevens slot seventh place in Hong Kong as they build toward SVNS finale

Sun, Apr 7, 2024, 8:06 AM
by Taylor Dean
Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

USA Men’s Sevens slot seventh place in Hong Kong as they build toward SVNS finale

The USA Men’s Sevens notched eight more series standings points with a seventh place finish in Hong Kong, as they work toward securing a spot in the SVNS finale in Madrid and ultimately Paris 2024. 

Captain Kevon Williams etched his name in sevens history, scoring his 100th career try and becoming the sixth American man to make the achievement. 

The USA showed big improvements throughout the weekend at Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong SVNS, upsetting Argentina with a win to start. Small errors in the quarterfinal match against Ireland put the Dawgs in the seventh place playoff. With one more tournament to go to qualify for Madrid SVNS, the USA will hone in on remaining in the top eight of the standings as they build toward Singapore.

HSBC Singapore SVNS kicks off Friday, May 3, live on RugbyPass, with finals simulcast on Peacock. 

Comments from Head Coach Mike Friday: 

“I’m really proud of the way the boys performed over the last three days. The effort, attitude, and some of our attacking and defensive plays have been outstanding. We were in a ridiculously brutal group, and to fight our way out of that group in the way we did was fantastic to see. It was always going to be close in that quarterfinal against Ireland. We made a couple of defensive errors, but we played some good attacking rugby. Terry Kennedy came up with a clutch moment to win the game for Ireland. I’m disappointed for the boys because they deserved more from this weekend, but that’s the world of sevens. What we can be happy with is our character, attitude, endeavor, and performances. 

Our mindset going into Singapore will be the same as it was going into Hong Kong. We know we are in a dog fight with a seven point cushion against Great Britain. The mission is to win rugby games. We’ll go home, recover, rest, and we’ll have the same approach and application in our buildup to Singapore. We’re going to have to be up for the challenge to secure ourselves the final in Madrid.”

Tournament Recap

The Dawgs began their Hong Kong tour against powerhouses Argentina in a challenging Pool B. Needing to secure a win off the bat, the USA began playing quick in their offloads and recycles, getting the ball to Perry Baker who was able to jet away for the first score of the match. Argentina worked hard on attack to get to the try zone, but both teams capitalized on every ball handling error, proving they would need to be as clinical as possible. The USA had some great defensive efforts, including a try-saving breakdown by Madison Hughes and Joe Schroeder. Argentina soon took back possession, but Perry Baker picked the ball from the air and ran end to end for the second USA try. Argentina ended the second half with a try, scoring again at the start of the second half to close the score gap to 14-10 with the USA in the lead. 

The rest of the second half saw a lot of turnover as both teams worked hard to remain clinical as they worked each other down. The Dawgs’ defensive efforts were on full show as Maka Unufe and Stephen Tomasin put in the counter ruck work to win possession with one minute left. But the ball went to touch, giving Argentina line out and one more shot to score. Pita Vi kept his calm to secure the win at a tackle, ending the game. With the 14-10 win, the USA beat Argentina for the first time since Malaga 2022. 

Heading into their second pool match with confidence, the Dawgs knew they needed a win against Great Britain to secure quarterfinals. Great Britain got the ball first and played quick, but a loose ball picked up by Aaron Cummings created an opportunity for Perry Baker to score first in the middle. Great Britain responded quickly with their own points, and most of the game saw both sides trying to play fast and urgent. Another score brought Great Britain into the lead, but Faitala Talapusi closed the score gap with one more try at halftime. 

The second half was USA-dominant, beginning with Kevon Williams, who spotted a gap and scored his 100th career try, putting USA in the lead. Malacchi Esdale earned another USA try off a scrum for final points for the Dawgs. With a win off the table for Great Britain, the opponents worked on attack to have the final say. But a yellow card to Great Britain put them down one man, and Pita Vi proved to be vital on defense as he chased down a loose runner and won possession to end the game and secure the win, 26-14. 

With both teams booked through to the quarterfinals, the USA v New Zealand pool match would decide who finished on top. For most of the match, the USA struggled to hang on to a slippery ball from the thick Hong Kong humidity, and New Zealand were able to take advantage. A yellow card to the All Blacks early on gave the USA advantage, but New Zealand kept up strong defense to keep the Dawgs from scoring in the window before the halftime whistle. 

With the All Blacks up 0-7 heading into the second half, the majority of the game was played mid-field. Great counter-rucking action by the USA gave them many opportunities to score, and it was Joe Schroeder who finally found the gap after Kevon Williams drew in two defenders, and he jetted away to add five points. Madison Hughes’ conversion tied the game. But a mid-field scrum to New Zealand proved to be the decider, as the team scored immediately to end the game with a 7-12 win over the USA.

The Dawgs went into their quarterfinal against Ireland, and both sides were equally determined to book their semifinals ticket. Ireland were first to score off a scrum set piece, but the USA kept the ball alive on attack, and Kevon Williams scored off a scrum in response. But small mistakes on defense left holes for Ireland to take a few more opportunities. Aaron Cummings found space on the edge for five more USA points, tying up the score 12-12 at halftime. 

The second half was a similar story of fighting for possession over a loose ball, so the USA needed to capitalize on every error on the Ireland side. Kevon Williams got the ball over one more time for the USA to bring the game to a golden point. With the tension rising, the USA received the kick off and built momentum, but Ireland pulled the ball to touch, taking possession and using a kick through to score the final try and secure the win, 19-26. 

Reset from a big loss, the Dawgs went into the seventh place playoff against Spain. Having won the last two matchups against the European team, the USA went in with a determination to continue the streak. Spain, known for their adept ability to run the ball width to width, scored first, isolating American forwards to get the space on the edge. But the Dawgs responded quickly, pushing the ball out wide to Pita Vi, who was quick to score. Vi made his case for match MVP, turning around to do a show and go with limited space on the edge and offloading to his captain, Kevon Williams, who finished the try. 

In the second half, Spain continued their display of urgency and clinical ball in hand plays to secure two more tries. Overcommitting and disconnected on defense, the USA needed to reorganize, and it paid off with a great defensive scramble that earned the ball back on counter attack. Perry Baker was the final try scorer, skipping out of two tackles to earn five more points, securing the final win for the USA in Hong Kong, 19-17.

The team's evident progress in Hong Kong will help them hone in on what needs improvements as they reset and build toward the final SVNS stop in Singapore.

USA Men’s Sevens Roster | 2024 Hong Kong SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
1. Aaron Cummings Forward 20
4. Maceo Brown Center/Hooker 24
5. Joe Schroeder Forward 36
6. Kevon Williams (C) Halfback/Wing 51
8. Malacchi Esdale Wing/Center 24
9. Stephen Tomasin Utility 58
10. Faitala Talapusi Fullback 19
11. Perry Baker Wing 69
13. Orrin Bizer Forward 6
14. Marcus Tupuola Halfback/Center 30
25. Pita Vi Center/Wing 7
30. Madison Hughes Halfback 58
77. Maka Unufe Center/10 52

USA Men's Sevens Traveling Staff | Hong Kong 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

USA Men’s Sevens Hong Kong Results

Pool B

v Argentina | 14-10 (W)

v Great Britain | 26-14 (W)

v New Zealand | 7-12 (L)


QF v Ireland | 19-24 (L)

7th Place Playoff v Spain | 19-17 (W)

Full Results »