Let’s acknowledge first of all that the USA is 1-9 in their last ten games.
It’s not a downward spiral, however. Certainly the Eagle performance in Wellington was poor, but in Las Vegas, while the wins were scare, the USA was competitive in every match, losing 19-12 to Canada, 33-19 to Fiji, 14-12 to Argentina, and 19-14 to Australia.
In each of those games, the Eagles made errors to give up tries, and errors that prevented them from scoring. One tiny thing could have gone the USA’s way, and the scores would have been very different.
In the Bowl semifinal, the Eagles lost 19-14 to Australia, and really should have won the game. Three big moments turned the game to Australia:
In the first half, Maka Unufe finally got some space on the outside, outpaced his defenders, and was free to the line. However, the wing just stepped on the touchline.
Head Coach Al Caravelli knows that sort of thing can happen.
“On Maka’s run, this field is narrower than other fields [in the World Series],” Caravelli said. “We’re looking forward to seeing Maka in Hong Kong with a 70-meter field. You look at guys who’ve had breakout seasons, Cecil Afrika had 3 years of development, and one year on the circuit before he broke out. Maka has just started with us. I am excited to see him make more of an impact. I am not upset he tried it, it’s what we want him to do. You wait for when he unleashes.”
At the end of the first half, Unufe went into contact and Matt Hawkins was called for coming in from the side. Hawkins was clearly guilty. From the ensuing penalty, Australia scored, making a 12-7 game 19-7. The Eagles outscored Australia 7-0 in the second half.
“We got away from the pattern,” said Caravelli. “The pattern was to go wide. We didn’t, some of the teammates expect something else, and we turned it over. We just need to continue to be comfortable with the pattern.”
And finally, at the end of the match, Australia made a tackle, and one player was clearly in an offside position in the ruck. Referee Rasta Rasivhenge called “no hands”, and then left Australia pick the ball up, from an offside position, and steal the ball. It was a fairly clear bad call although Caravelli refused to comment on the incident.
Had the Eagles retained possession, they were in a solid position to score and win.
Three incidents: one bad luck, one a bad decision, and one a bad call. Any one could have turned defeat into victory.