The USA men’s 7s team accomplished two massively-important tasks Saturday afternoon in Glasgow as they beat France 21-14 in their final pool game at the Glasgow 7s.
The victory ended a 2-1 day for the Eagles, and a place in the Cup Quarterfinals, and in addition, barring a miracle, they will have guaranteed automatic core status for next season.
Scotland is yet to play their final game, but they are 1-1, and play New Zealand, a team they have never beaten. If Scotland doesn’t win, then Scotland is 13th and the USA 12th in the standings.
“I’m just so proud of the boys,” said USA captain Matt Hawkins. “We played for each other and we’re just happy we did what we needed to do and got into the Cup Quarterfinals.”
The game started out on the French side of the ledger, with Les Bleus receiving the kickoff and slowly working their way downfield. The USA defense was, generally, there, but some of the players fell off tackles, allowing France to inch into USA territory. It took about eight phases, but finally France got to paydirt, with Steeve Barry shrugging off Folau Niua and scampering in. 7-0 France.
The Eagles did well to reply immediately. Matt Hawkins and Andrew Durutalo battled through and then Niua had the ball and those two in support. He dummied several times, buying himself time and territory, but ultimately he ran somewhat away from support and was tackled ten meters from the French line. Somehow the USA retained the ball, and Zack Test was almost through. France defended, and it appeared the USA might have botched the scoring chance. But Colin Hawley rucked over the ball, booted it into in-goal, and dove on it for a try born out of total effort.
Shalom Suniula kicked the conversion to tie the game 7-7.
The Eagles retained the kickoff on some good work from Hawley and Blaine Scully. But it took a moment of brilliance to make it work. Suniula received a bit of a hospital pass, with no one behind him. He managed to dance out of a Frenchman’s clutches, zip through a gap, and then set Test free with a long pass. Suniula then added the extras on a tough angle to finish the half at 14-7.
France caught a break at the beginning of the second half. The Eagles won the ball on the kickoff, but Hawley, who had picked up at the ruck and was running straight, was tripped by a Frenchman on the ground. No call, turnover to France, and quickly Terry Bouhraoua was in for the tying try – 14-14.
A tie would have been fine for the USA, as that was enough to keep them 2nd in their pool, but they wanted the win. For the rest of the match, the Eagles put on the pressure. They attacked into French territory and seemed to have a nice overlap to score. But Nick Edwards, who scored five tries on Day One, opted to take on four defenders. The USA recycled, but the final pass from matt Hawkins was knocked into touch by the French. Eventually France ended that attack thanks to a penalty in the ruck, but they opted for the lineout, and Matt Hawkins stole that ball – the USA was back on the front foot.
Shalom Suniula was held up in the tackle, giving France a scrum, but the Americans pressured the French off that scrum, and ultimately Andrew Durutalo made a excellent tackle, and Test poached the ball, which was sent out to the backs. Niua, dummied and ghosted through a half gap, and was in under the posts. Suniula’s kick sealed it.
It was a wonderful end to an excellent day for the Eagles, who were unlucky to lose to Wales 26-21. They are in the Cup Quarterfinals for the fourth time this season, easily their best record ever, and pending Scotland’s loss to New Zealand, will guarantee that they don’t have to re-qualify for the circuit for next season.
Tries: Hawley, Test, Niua
Convs: Suniula 3
USA Starting Lineup: Matt Hawkins, Andrew Durutalo, Zack Test, Shalom Suniula, Folau Niua, Blaine Scully, Nick Edwards
Tries: Barry, Bouhrauoa
Convs: Albaladejo 2