George, South Africa - The USA Men's 7s nearly upset defending IRB Sevens World Series champion Samoa during its George 7s opener, but a defensive lapse that saw its halftime lead disappear erode the Eagles' opportunity to mount a full comeback.
Conversions made the difference in the scoreline, with both teams logging four tries apiece in Samoa's 24-22 win, but the Eagles dropped opportunities to put the game away elsewhere. The USA ran out to a 10-0 lead after two minutes, with Mile Pulu and captain Matt Hawkins scoring tries for the Americans, 10-0.
Even though the USA dominated the first seven, Samoa took the momentum into the break, riding 2010 USA 7s MVP Alafoti Fa'osiliva's late try into the second half.
Samoa put its foot down, with Ofisa Treviranus scoring in the opening minute and Otto repeating the feet a minute later. Otto had more luck off the boot than his USA counterpart, converting both tries for the 19-10 lead.
Samoa's final points came in the fourth minute, when Fa'osiliva got his second try of the match, 24-10.
The Eagles mounted a late attack that saw Nu'u Punimata dot down with six and half minutes elapsed, and after an Apelu Fa'aiuga sin bin in injury time, Miles Craigwell took advantage of the extra space for a final try, which Suniula converted, 24-22.
Life doesn't get any easier for the Eagles as it must regroup for Fiji for game two in pool B.
Tries: Fa'osiliva 2, Treviranus, Otto
Conversions: Otto 2
Tries: Hawkins, Pulu, Punimata, Craigwell
Conversions: S Suniula
USA: Matt Hawkins, Marco Barnard, Mark Bokhoven, Shalom Suniula, Zach Test, Miles Craigwell, Colin Hawley, Nu'u Punimata, Kyle Marshall, PJ Komongan, Roland Suniula