By winning the Bowl in Adelaide, the USA 7s team earned its first HSBC World Series points since Dubai in December.
The four points for winning the Bowl vaulted them past Scotland, Portugal and Russia into 10th place, just two points behind Kenya.
The move in the standings, while something Head Coach Al Caravelli doesn't like to dwell on, is important. The top 12 teams in the standings get invited back as core teams. Dropping out of that top 12 means the USA would run the risk of having their 7s season cut back, and rightly so.
Now they have to target earning more points, in part because, every tournament where they earn points is a tournament where it's harder for those chasing them to catch the Eagles.
Caravelli, despite the ups and downs the program has encountered this season, has legitimate reason for hope.
"I am pelased because I wanted us to improve with every game and we got better as the tournament went on," said Caravelli. "We had some issues where we needed to go to our bench, and the bench rose to the occasion."
Todd Clever could not make the trip to Adelaide for the USA, so the Eagles played with 11 players. Against Scotland in the Bowl Semi, Zack Test, who had played every minute of every game, was just too gassed to play. So Taylor Mokate stepped into the breach and performed well.
Overall, the issues that plagued the Eagles early on started to drift away.
"I showed the guys that after Day 1 we were one of the best defensive teams, just behind South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, but were first in most handling errors," explained Caravelli. "So we talked about how we were defending well, but needed to clean up those errors."
Against Japan they didn't make as many errors, but their tackling dropped off. Still they found a way to win, and after that were almost perfect in the tackle area. It's one of the vaguaries of 7s that you can make all your tackles and still give up two tries (both on turnovers of different types).
Silly turnovers, going into contact a little too much, and dropped balls all needed to be fixed, and in the end, the players fixed it well enough to win four in row, and cap the Hong Kong to Adelaide trip with a 7-4 record.
Now what's next? The Eagles wanted a warmup tournament before London and Edinburgh, but the Japan 7s has, for obvious reasons, been called off. Caravelli, who has been calling for warmup tournaments for over a year now, will once again take a team into an IRB event without a tuneup.
What team will he be taking to the UK? It should be one with several changes. It seems unlikely right now that Todd Clever will be back for that trip. Matt Hawkins, Zack Test, Colin Hawley, Marco Barnard, Justin Boyd, Miles Craigwell, Taylor Mokate, Roland Suniula, Shalom Suniula and Peter Tiberio are certainly expected to return to challenge for spots. Paul Emerick? Most likely, but we'll see.
Several other players could be back from injury or unavailability: Rocco Mauer, Mile Pulu, Nese Malifa, Tai Enosa, Blaine Scully, and Don Pati to name a few. Ryan Roundy might also be in that mix.
Suddenly the next camp looks impressively competitive, especially at wing. This could be, yet again, a new-look team, and perhaps one built more around shiftiness and pace than it has been this season.
Whatever team comes out of that camp, it will be one with a mission. Sure each individual will want to get a place on the squad that goes to the Pan Am games in October. But as a team, as a program, they want to make sure they are in that top 12, and the best way to do that, is to make sure they earn more points.
Notes: Colin Hawley's two-try performance in the Bowl Final was an indication of how far the young player has come. He showed great grit and determination in that game. Said Caravelli: "Colin's learning to trust his teammates and know when the team is backing him. They said 'here's the ball, go,' and he took it. Strangely, it was in Adelaide two years ago when Zack Test had his turning point. I think this was Colin's."
Zack Test's 20 tries leads the USA and is tied for 7th on the IRB circuit. Paul Emerick's 15 is tied for 23rd. Test leads the team with 100 points, which is 21st among all players.