It was an up-and-down day for the USA at the George 7s. They played well enough to beat the defending IRB World Series champs, and then stepped on their own feet with a series of uncharacteristic errors and missed tackles to end up 1-2.
“We started very well against Samoa, but then hit a little lull,” USA Head Coach Al Caravelli told RUGBYMag.com. “Then we started really well against Fiji, made one mistake, and fell apart. Not going ten on a restart kick may seem like not a big deal, but against one of the best teams in the world it is a big deal.”
Against Namibia, the Eagles started poorly. Missed tackles put them near their own line, and then a quick lineout from Mark Bokhoven – who doesn’t often make such rash errors – ended up going out the back of in-goal. Scrum to Namibia, and while the USA turned that ball over, a Colin Hawley knock-on gifted the Namibians a try under the posts.
But the Americans picked it up after that. PJ Komongnan was quick to the ball at the back of the Namibian scrum again and produced a turnover that led to a Colin Hawley try – Mile Craigwell’s nifty pass over the top helping.
“They showed a lot of composure and got back into the game,” said Caravelli. “All I said to them was we had to get back to the basics.”
The end of the half was a perfect example of what can happen when the USA doesn’t play their game. The two squads played over 4 and-a-half minutes of extra play racing back and forth. The half ended with Matt Hawkins executing an outstanding tackle to stop a try. But the Eagles should have scored well before then.
“The guys weren’t on the same page,” Caravelli said. “Some wanted to kick the ball out and end the half, some wanted to keep playing. So We had four long breaks in that period, but with no support. We have to get back to supporting in threes and playing more as a team.”
They did in the second half, and in fact their fitness was impressive given they had played 11:37 in the first half.
Now the USA looks ahead to the Bowl Quarterfinals. They face France Saturday morning, followed by the winner of Russia (who looked impressive) and Zimbabwe.
“If we want to be a Cup Round team we need to be more consistent,” said Caravelli. “And if we want to win a Cup Final, we have to win three games on Day Two. So, we’re in the Bowl, but if we win three in a row we can come away with a trophy and some IRB points. It’s a good test for us. We need to stick to our way of playing and take one game at a time.”
No USA team has taken points from their first two IRB tournaments in a season. Three wins Saturday can produce that.
Notes: Caravelli told RUGBYMag.com that he came into the first tournaments of the season unsure what his starting seven was. The team had no warmup tournaments to settle that question. He said Friday night that he knows what his starting seven is now, and it will become evident when the USA plays France.