The USA capped off a fairly encouraging Day One at the Glasgow 7s, beating Kenya 29-14 in Pool A play.
This was an excellent match for fans to watch if they wanted to see what an Alex Magleby team needs to do. The USA dominated the restarts, starved Kenya of possession, and challenged the Kenyan defense effectively.
The Eagles gathered the opening kickoff and a quick dartback by Colin Hawley saw him tackled. Falling onto his back Hawley made what might be described as a 50-50 pass. But the success of risky passes lies in eye contact and communication. Hawley had both with Mike Palefau, lobbed the ball to his teammate, who juggled it for a moment, stepped out of a tackler’s arms, and raced 60 meters for a try.
The Americans then reclaimed the kickoff and moved the ball first right, and then left. The key play here was captain and scrumhalf Shalom Suniula making a little step inside a tackler before sending his pass. No contact, but the move committed the defender and left enough space for Folau Niua and then Zack test to set up Andrew Durutalo. The big prop thundered over in the corner to make it 12-0.
Kenya got one back. Willy Ndayara exposed Rocco Mauer on the wing, and while Mauer made it back in time to push Ndayara into touch, the Eagles were now on their goal line. Trying to run out of pressure Mauer was isolated, and from the turnover Felix Ayange just stretched over for the try. 12-7.
The USA got the ball back and again looked very comfortable in attack. With time up in the half, Zack Test was put into space on the wing. He was stopped, and dropped the ball. The ref ruled the ball dropped backward, and Nu’u Punimata picked it up. For a second, everyone stopped, perhaps expecting a whistle. When no whistle came, Punimata just took off and went 50 meters to score. 17-7 at halftime. The USA had given Kenya the ball twice, through a knock-on in the Kenya 22, and a turnover in their own end.
In the second half the Eagles secured their own kickoff and with Kenya penalized repeatedly for ruck infringements, sent the ball to Mauer on the wing. He was knocked down, but jumped up, fended off another tackler, and was in. 22-7 USA.
Again the Eagles got the ball back on the restart, and some nifty moves from Suniula got them started and Mauer finished it. 29-7.
The game was essentially over at this point. The USA started committing penalties, and a no-wrap tackle from Tai Enosa earned the halfback a two-minute sin-bin stint. Kenya scored during that time, but that was it.
Overall the USA did very well to limit scoring opportunities for their opposition, and were patient in creating those opportunities for themselves. Folau Niua seems to have come into his own, defending very well and making smart decisions with the ball.
The Eagles finish 1-2 in Pool Play after close losses to Australia (see report here) and England.
Against England, the Eagles fell behind 14-0 and mounted a furious second-half comeback that impressed many observers. Hawley and Mauer scored tries to tie the game with three minutes to go, but Mat Turner’s late try salvaged a 19-12 win for England.
The Eagles will face Russia, 0-3 on Day One, at 10:30am local time, 5:30am ET, 2:30am PT Sunday in the Bowl Quarterfinals.
Day One Box Scores
USA 14 Australia 29
Tries: Hawley, Niua
Convs: Niua 2
USA 14 England 19
Tries: Hawley, Mauer
USA 29 Kenya 14
Tries: Palefau, Durutalo, Punimata, Mauer 2
Convs: Niua 2