Wales defeated the USA 27-19 Sunday in the Gold Coast 7s Bowl Quarterfinals in what was ultimately an improved performance by the Eagles.
Still, it was a loss, and a loss where the USA led late, 19-15.
The USA started the game without captain Shalom Suniula and without Peter Dahl, both injured.
“That’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Head Coach Alex Magleby. “With every team being able to use all their subs, the teams carrying injuries are at a disadvantage, because the teams without injuries can replace almost their entire team each game."
The USA wanted to retain their own kickoff to start the game, and while they didn’t succeed, they did make Wales work for their meters and in the end forced Wales into touch.
The defense set up a nice little lineout take set up Luke Hume, who sidestepped three defenders and raced 55 meters in to paydirt and a 7-0 lead with Tai Enosa’s conversion.
The USA retained their restart well and worked the ball well, but eventually turned the ball over in a holding-on penalty. Wales tapped quickly and Lee Williams was free in at the corner. 7-5.
The Americans won the next restart but lost it when Enosa flipped a backhanded pass to Hume, who wasn’t expecting it. Hume was shoved away from the ball – a potential penalty – but no call and Wales spun the ball to Tom Williams who put Wales ahead 10-7.
This would have been a good time for the Eagles to collapse, but they didn’t. A massive tackle from Matt Hawkins forced a turnover and Carlin Isles got Maka Unufe in space. Unufe fed Brett Thompson in support, who passed to Mike Palefau and back inside to Thompson for the former Arizona Wildcat’s first international 7s try. Enosa slotted the kick and the USA entered halftime up 14-10.
They added to it seconds into the second half. Unufe just shrugged off his guy and stretched his legs to score right from the kickoff. 19-10 USA.
Wales got the momentum back, however. Enosa’s restart didn’t go ten meters, and from that possession, Wales worked it slowly down into the corner for Will Price. The USA were hard-done by from a non-call where referee David Keane was about to whistle up for holding on, and then decided not to. 19-15 USA led.
Now with five fresh players, Wales had a spring in their step and Lee Williams exposed some poor tackle attempts by the Eagles to score and make it 22-19 with the conversion.
But the Eagles had the ball coming back to them and a chance then to reply. Instead, they stepped on their own feet. No one claimed the kick, Rocco Mauer tapped the bouncing ball back to Hume, and Hume couldn’t get the ball – James Davies pounced on the ball and that was it, 27-19.
The ending was bad for the USA, but the first 11 minutes or so was much improved.
Tries: Hume, Thompson, Unufe
Convs: Enosa 2
Tries: L. Williams, T. Williams, Davies, Price, Smith
USA Starting Lineup:
Note: Zack Test was on the bench after a below par Day One, and he has apparently been challenged by his coach to up his game.