Coming off of an impressive 26-12 win over Canada, the USA Men's 7s team reverted back to sloppy play against Zimbabwe, but played well enough to secure a 21-17 win, thanks largely to three conversions slotted by Folau Niua.
These two victories put the USA at 2-1 in Pool D, and, with Portugal's victory over Canada right after, secured the Eagles their first visit to the Cup Round since the 2010-2011 season.
The Zimnbabwe game was delayed early on, as Maka Unufe went down with what seemed like a head injury, and it took the training staff some time to assist him off the field. Jack Halalilo came on in his place.
One of the Eagles’ turnovers actually led to the first American try. After Matt Hawkins slipped with the ball in hand and knocked on, turning the ball over to Zimbabwe, Zack Test tied up the new ballcarrier in the tackle, and then Colin Hawley ripped the ball away and offloaded to Hawkins, who fed Halalilo for the score, his first on the IRB circuit.
Zimbabwe got the ball deep in their end off the kickoff, and Hume shot up out of the line in defense and missed his tackle, leaving a big gap for Tafadzwa Chitokwindo to run through en route to a long range try.
Hume made up for the error on the next offensive possession. He stepped through a Zimbabwe tackle and offloaded out of another to Folau Niua. The halfback passed inside to a streaking Halalilo, who took the ball to Zimbabwe’s five meter line. He desperately passed backwards, and Matt Hawkins scooped up the ball and fed Nick Edwards, who went between the posts for the try.
The Eagles went back to their confused ways at the start of the second half, when Test made a no-look pass in front of Hawkins that resulted in a knock on. Zimbabwe capitalized on the USA error with a try to pull within two at 14-12.
Carlin Isles helped set up the next American try when he busted a seam through the Zimbabwean defense and up the touch line before being tackled by the sweeper. The Eagles recycled thanks to a fierce ruck from Colin Hawley, and then Test helped put Niua into a hole, and he fed Halalilo for his second try of the match. Niua converted, putting the Eagles up 21-12.
With point differential potentially playing into the Eagles’ chances at making the Cup Quarters, USA committed one more turnover that led to a Zimbabwe try. Instead of immediately giving the ball to Isles in space, Niua hesitated and then offered a poor pass that gave Zimbabwe their scoring possession.
Portugal blew out Canada in the final match of Pool D, helping the Eagles make the Cup Quarterfinal round for the first time since Dubai in 2010, where they draw the top team from Pool A, which contains South Africa, France, Samoa and Australia.
Tries: Halalilo (2), Edwards
Cons: Niua (3)
Tries: Nemadire, Chitokwindo, Coles