Two losses and a tie is how the USA Men's Sevens team ended their first day at the Hertz Sevens in Wellington. In an unforgiving pool with New Zealand, England, and Spain, the Eagles were competitive, but will be competing in the Bowl Quarterfinals on day two, not in the elite Cup competition.
The pattern for the USA on day one was to score early (they scored first in all their games), then have an unfortunate two or three minutes, and then chase the game allowing the other team to manipulate the clock and employ other proven finishing strategies to seal a win. The Eagles were constantly improving, but were too late finding their rhythm.
Spain was on the ropes for a good part of the first game, but miscues on defense allowed the Spanish to take the lead in the second half and hang on for the win.
England was in a state of shock for the first half, finding themselves losing to the Americans and not being able to get their hands on the ball. The USA kept the ball tight and forced the English to make tackle after tackle, wearing down on the English bodies. Luke Hume scored a try punching in through traffic to give the Eagles the lead. Mat Turner scored England’s second try with only seconds left in the match, but it was enough time for the referee to allow one final restart. Maka Unufe took it to the house and Folau Niua converted to tie the game.
To end day one, the USA had the home team, New Zealand, to beat to advance to the Cup Quarterfinals. For a good part of the game, it looked like that was going to happen. Nick Edwards scored a great individual try to go up 5-0 on the hosts. Tries on either side of halftime gave New Zealand the lead they would hold on to despite a late score from Zack Test.
The results aren’t desirable, but the team has proven to be very competitive and physical. Players are making more big plays and you get the sense that they are on the cusp of putting together something special on day two in Wellington.
In the Bowl Quarterfinals, Fiji will stand in the way of the USA. Kickoff is 7:44 p.m. ET.
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