The USA 7s team ended their HSBC Sevens World Series campaign with a discouraging eight-game losing streak, finishing the streak off Sunday in Edinburgh with two close losses.
The Eagles were taken down 17-15 by Kenya in the Bowl Quarterfinals, in a game where they finally, at least, took an early lead. Shalom Suniula’s try barely 30 seconds into the game put the USA up. But Kenya struck back twice in the first half and led 12-5 at the break.
The Eagles were patient with the ball in the second half and tied the game 12-12 when Zack Test, back from injury, scored. And it was Test once again two minutes later for the 15-12 lead.
But it wasn’t enough. Kenya held onto the ball well and kept up the attack. With Paul Emerick in the sin bin, Lavina Asego scored to make it 17-15 and take the victory.
On to the Shield semifinals against Russia, and after giving up an early try, the Eagles scored through Nese Malifa and, after a long sequence, Paul Emerick to make it 12-7 USA at halftime.
But once again it’s been difficult for the Eagles to retain possession consistently and two tries from Nikolay Zaporzhin got the victory for the Russians 17-12.
The USA is the only core team not full-time, and many non-core teams are full-time or close to it. The difference in regular training time showed itself in stark relief this weekend, where the Eagles lost all five games, but three of those (against Fiji, Kenya and Russia) by only a try, and one other (Samoa) by a mere nine points. Time together, and consistency of selections, along with warmup tournaments that have not materialized, could all, anyone can argue, have made a difference.
As it is, the good new is that Kenya defeated Scotland for the Bowl. What that did was ensure the USA stayed in the Top 12, and therefore will be a core team for 2011-2012. The question remains whether they will be able to train like it.