The USA Men's Eagle Sevens team went 1-2 on day one of the Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa Sevens, the third stop on the HSBC Sevens World Series with a win over Argentina (21-14) and losses to Samoa (12-14) and England (7-26). The USA will take on Zimbabwe in the bowl quarterfinal tomorrow (Saturday December 10) at 4:16 a.m. ET.
The Eagles were tied with England at the half following a converted Zack Test try. However, England slipped away in the last three minutes and scored 19 unanswered points for the win.
Argentina started the first and second halves strong, but couldn't get it together against a very sharp USA outfit. Three excellent tries and conversions led to the USA victory and a good shake up in the Pool A standings, setting the stage for a thriller against Samoa to finish the day for the Eagles.
Samoa had a strong start against the USA and scored two converted tries inside of three minutes to start the game. A cool head and violent fend from Nick Edwards gave the Eagles a five pointer before halftime to close the gap to seven points. A heroic try-saving tackle from captain Shalom Suniula as the first half ended put the USA within striking distance at the interval.
The Eagles matched Samoa's two tries in the second half, but an extremely tricky conversion from the touch line for Suniula just missed and the tying points bounced off the upright. With time ticking down, a barrage of Eagle attacks were thwarted by the Samoans. A penalty with a minute to go in regulation gave Samoa an opportunity to slow the game down and watch their two point lead turn into a victory.
Read full match reports and box scores here.
Allowing teams to get on the board early is something USA Head Coach Al Caravelli and the Eagles will look to rectify on day two. However, the coach also noted that the team was gelling very well on both sides of the ball.
"Our defensive scheme is in tact now and guys are understanding what we want to do from an attacking perspective. Things are falling into place," Caravelli said. However, there are still improvements to be made.
"We need to stay patient throughout the entire game," the coach said. "Anytime we have possession, it becomes a critical moment in the game. As we develop as a team, the better we understand that, the better we become."
Looking to tomorrow's clash with Zimbabwe, the Eagles aren't going to be looking past their quarterfinal opponents even though they handled Zimbabwe 41-7 last weekend in Dubai. Caravelli recalls a similar situation in back-to-back tournaments last season saying, "We can't take Zimbabwe lightly. If you look at it, we've only beaten them twice. We trounced them in Dubai last year and then they came to South Africa and beat us."
The USA have struggled on day one during the last two tournaments in Dubai and Australia, so a solid showing in arguably the toughest pool in South Africa is a promising sign for not only tomorrow but the rest of the season as well. Caravelli credits the team's mental toughness and cohesiveness for the turnaround.
"We've been together for 32 days right now and I have to give credit to the entire team, staff and players, for keeping the mental side of the game focused when it has to be, and also knowing when to unwind," said the coach.
With 15 players going full-time in January 2012, Caravelli noted that the mental fortitude his team showed today will be a key to success in that environment.
The semifinal and final rounds of the tournament will be shown live on UniversalSports.com.
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