USA 7s team Head Coach Al Caravelli’s team went 1-2 on Day One at the Nelson Mandela Bay 7s in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, that much is indisputable.
For Caravelli, though, 3-0 wasn’t all that out of reach. In the final match of pool play against Samoa, a soft try that culminated with two poor attempts at tackles resulted in an opening score for the Samoans – in a game that ended 14-12.
“We keep giving up those soft tries early,” lamented Caravelli.
Even so, they were in a position to win the game at the end. The USA had an attacking scrum just outside the Samoan 22 with 90 seconds to go. They had plenty of time to just work their way forward and, if no try was on offer, win the game with a drop goal. Instead, they pressed, Mike Palefau was isolated, the support was a little late, and they turned the ball over.
Samoa’s coach Stephen Betham admitted later he thought the game was lost when the scrum was called.
“We cannot lost a ball like that,” said Caravelli. “We have to be patient and take our time in that situation.”
Still, that was just one loss of two. The other loss ended 26-7 in favor of England, but turned on one play.
With the score 7-7, Mark Bokhoven attacked around the corner. He was pulled down but managed to offload to Zack Test in support. Test was tackled before he touched the ball – a clear penalty and potentially a penalty try and a yellow card. Instead, the USA was penalized and England went on to score.
Instead of being up 14-7 with an opponent in the sin bin, the USA found themselves down 14-7. England pushed their advantage and scored two tries late, but the damage had been done.
Now – thanks to a missed tackle and a missed call - they play in the Bowl Quarterfinals against Zimbabwe, instead of the Cup Quarterfinals. Caravelli said that’s already past.
“We felt we could have been 3-0,” he said. “But the guys have already moved past that. I was very pleased, overall, with the defensive organization. We tackled well – we made 90% of our tackles against England, 100% against Argentina, and 82% against Samoa. We have to correct some things on technique in our tackles, but we are communicating better. On attack, we are rapidly getting to where we need to be, but we still have a ways to go.”
Notes: Colin Hawley picked up an injury and will not play any further in this tournament. Andrew Durutalo is filling in for him and could well see more time on Day Two. After seemingly missing some defensive assignments against Argentina, Folau Niua did not play against Samoa. He is likely to start against Zimbabwe, however.