Fiji has beaten the USA 21-19 in the Cup Quarterfinals to finish their Day Two at the USA 7s.
The Eagles had plenty of chances to win, but ultimately were just pipped by a fairly fortunate Fijian team.
Fiji started on the hoof as they often do, and a run down the right wing was followed by a kick to center that fortunately for the Eagles was knocked on.
The USA got the ball back and kicked downfield for Carlin Isles to chase. The wing got to the ball but was nicely smothered. Several Americans got behind their teammate to drive him over the line, but the ball went touch in-goal.
Still pressure for the USA, and ultimately a try when Zack Test went high to steal a Fiji lineout throw and was n from 30 meters. Folau Niua kicked the tough conversion (more on that later) and the USA led 7-0.
On the restart Blaine Scully was in perfect position to get the tap-down, but the ball was a tough one to grab. He would have been free in for a try had the tap been more charitable.
Colin Hawley’s huge tackle at midfield forced a holding-on penalty against Fiji. The USA took the lineout, but overthrew the jumpers. Fiji got the ball and after some smart work by the Fijian backs Jasa Veremalua, Fiji tied it 7-7 at halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles started well. Scully rumbled through traffic into the Fijian half. He was tackled around the neck three times, but no call, and then the Fijians rucked the Americans off the ball and kicked downfield. In the USA 22 the Eagles were again rucked off the ball (thanks in part to a punch to Colin Hawley’s chin) and Ilai Tinai was in under the posts. 14-7 Fiji.
The Americans did not fold up, and instead produced a try of true class. Zack Test ran up the right side, stepped back to his support, and recycled. The ball went to Isles in midfield, and he sent a picture-perfect pass to Nick Edwards, who combined well with Andrew Durutalo to make it into the Fiji 22. One more ruck and then out to Luke Hume, who sidestepped in to dive over. 14-14 tie.
But Fiji got it right back. Off the restart Jone Vota anticipated the tap-back, took the ball and was in for the try quick as you like. 21-14 Fiji.
But with time winding down Fiji made an error, putting the restart kick out on the full. From the free kick at center, the USA attacked, but injuries and other factors left them without a particularly large lineup in the closing moments. They kept the ball alive, though, and had a penalty right in front of the posts. Durutalo almost made it over, but then the USA spun it wide.
Here was the crucial decision – do you take the try on offer out wide, or do you recycle and try to score under the posts? They opted for the former as Luke Hume went in the corner. Perhaps it was asking a bit much of Niua, whose kicking had been superb in the game, to slot the kick from the touchline. The wind almost curled it in, but the kick stayed wide, and Fiji were 21-19 winners.
It was a very strong performance by the USA, and they were a tad unlucky, especially since Fiji, who entered the game with two players suspended for off-the-ball incidents on Friday, were not the cleanest of opponents.
The USA put in this performance without captain Matt Hawkins, who was suspended one game for a flip tackle against Spain.
The Eagles now move on to the Plate Semifinals, which they will play on Sunday morning at 10:48. They look likely to face Canada.
Fiji should match up with New Zealand in the Cup Semis.
Tries: Test, Hume 2
Convs: Niua 2
Tries: Veremalua, Tinai, Vota
Convs: Tanai, Raqamate 2