The scoreline will read USA Falcons 34 and the Cayman Islands 5, but Falcons Coach Tony Pacheco will not be happy with a sloppy, unfinished performance by the Americans in their opening game of the NACRA 7s in George Town.
The Americans won easily because they are faster, stronger, and had Carlin Isles to pass to, but the Falcons forced too many silly passes, and turned the all over in the ruck far too often to be pleased with the game.
The USA opened the scoring seconds into the game. Cayman won the kickoff, and sent a big man trucking up the middle right at Isles. Nu'u Punimata came in to help make the tackle, Isles ripped the ball free, and sped off to the tryline. Shalom Suniula's conversion made it a quick 7-0.
It wasn't too long after that try that Cayman were pinged for a penalty, and a couple of passes later Isles was gone again. 12-0.
The Falcons failed to secure their own kickoffs, and that meant Cayman started each sequence with the ball. They ran with bravery but didn't quite have the pace to beat US defenders. So the Falcons waited for a turnover, and Cayman, a little wary of the big hits to come, provided them with knock-ons. After one such drop, Nate Augspurger took the ball out of the back of the scrum and cut an angle into the corner. 17-0.
The USA had perhaps their best sequence of play, helped by a couple of penalties. They managed to recycle the ball in a tackle, rather than think rucks were beneath their abilities, and hands out to Nu'u Punimata put the prop in at the corner and a 22-0 lead.
In the second half, Cayman played with a lot more confidence, and pressured the Falcons into giving up silly penalties in the ruck. Eventually the USA turned the ball over and set off down field, but it was a mixed bag of individual goofy plays (Isles trying to chip ahead and seeing his kick blocked) and players not really working off the ball. Eventually they got into the Cayman half, but a silly offload out of the tackle, followed by a ball left unattended at the back of the ruck, gave Cayman and turnover, and Robbie Cribb carried Isles over the line for the try.
It didn't help the Falcons that Tai Enosa was on the ground during this entire sequence. The USA halfback hurt himself, got up off the ground to take the ball forward, and then hurt himself again.
After that the Falcons grew up a little. They were still sloppy with the ball, thinking that one possession should yield a try without any rucks, and they gave up a few penalties, but they also started to work the phases a little more, and certainly were more patient on defense. With Jack Halalilo doing all the work himself to keep a ruck together, Pono Haitsuka raced in to nab the ball at the base of the breakdown, and then the Oregon State star scampered through for his first try.
Later on, perhaps the Falcons' best sequence was on defense, as they patiently made the tackles and let the rucks happen without penalties for a couple of minutes. The result was a penalty by Cayman Islands. Quick tap, pass to Isles, and he beat his man to run in from 55.
Offensively the USA showed they are athletic and know how to pass for the man. They hit hard, and have a plan. But they fell into the trap of being cocky and thinking that a team that is not strong won't still force them to play real rugby.
The restarts were a problem, as the Falcons just couldn't time the jumps right, and then Augspurger also sent out on the full (it was also not ten meters, but two violations only resulted in one free kick).
Next up for the USA Falcons is Curacao.
Tries: isles 3, Augspurger, Punimata, Haitsuka
Convs: Suniula, Augspurger