Canada scored on the final play of the game to win the Pan-Am Games Rugby 7s semifinal in Guadalajara, Mexico, denying an improving USA from a shot at the gold medal.
The USA played a very good game, but were plagued by poorly-times turnovers that scuttled what could have been an impressive victory.
USA Head Coach Al Caravelli started Zack Test and Roland Suniula for the first time (Test started the first game on Saturday, but didn’t play after that), hoping to throw off the Canadians by giving them a different look.
The decision seemed to pay off as Test was effective in the restarts and lineouts, and Suniula was instrumental.
Canada secured the first possession but the USA defense was very strong. Mark Bokhoven and Blaine Scully held up the ball and got a scrum, and from there the USA got a penalty, which Niua kicked 45 meters to the corner.
Now deep in Canadian territory, the Eagles pressured and finally put Maka Unufe through for the try. Folau Niua, whose kicking had been very solid, missed a makeable kick and the score remained 5-0.
The USA looked to add to that advantage, but were penalized, giving Canada a good attacking opportunity, which they cashed in through Ciaran Hearn. Canada led 7-5.
Right off the restart Blaine Scully was taken out in the air by John Moonlight. Moonlight made no attempt to go for the ball and simply took Scully down. He was penalized, but deserved a yellow card. The USA tried to use the penalty, and were right on the doorstep, but couldn’t push in the score to end the half. Halftime came Canada up 7-5.
Soon it was 14-5. The Eagles got the ball but a loose pass was taken by Nanyak Dala, and the movement he started was finished by Phil Mack, and Nathan Hirayama then calmly slotted the conversion to give Canada a two-score lead. A USA player was taken out when the pass from Bokhoven was made, but no call.
But there was still time. Connor Trainor was penalized for taking out Zack Test, and the Ealges kicked for touch again. They put the ball through the backs, but Unufe didn’t see a free run to the line, pulled up and did well to retain possession. The ball spun back to the forwards out wide, where Blaine Scully burst through to score. 14-12 Canada led with three minutes to go.
Test won the restart and Canada was penalized. Quickly the Americans used the ball and Shalom Suniula put a brilliant flat ball to his brother Roland, who danced his way under the posts. Ninety seconds to go, and the Eagles led 19-14.
But it wasn’t enough. A turnover gave Canada one last shot, and while the USA seemed to have numbers on the wing, they were outfoxed a little and Canada scored through Sean Duke. With time up, Hirayama hit the conversion to win the game.
“We didn’t shut them down,” said Caravelli. “We were in a position to stop them and we didn’t. Our defense got a lot better. It was what we worked on last night. When they scored tries it was turnovers from the handling part. In that last play we had them lined up and we didn’t close the gate.”
Tries: Hearn, Mack, Duke
Convs: Hirayama 3
Tries: Unufe, Scully, R. Suniula
Convs: Niua 2