The USA won their first game at the Tokyo 7s in the latest round of the HSBC World Series, beating Wales in a match that they really, really needed.
The Eagles started the opening game in Tokyo very well, taking a 7-0 lead in the first couple of minutes, but then it turned south quickly and they found themselves down two possessions. But a newly resilient US team persevered and beat Wales 24-15.
Zack Test took the first kickoff and nearly scored seconds later, but he was caught just before pay dirt and threw a desperate offload, which Wales collected and kicked down the field. In counter attack, Matt Hawkins burst through the center of the field, showing some of the aggressive play fans have been looking for, and offloaded to Colin Hawley for the score. With the conversion, USA led 7-0.
Wales struck back immediately and dotted down an unconverted try. Hawley then took the ensuing restart and threw a no-look pass off Nick Edwards’ face, giving Wales another quick-scoring possession. Both Welsh tries were unconverted.
The Eagles bungled the next possession and the ball squirted to within their defending five meters. Mike Palefau tried to slide onto the loose ball, but missed and just pushed it into the try zone for the Welsh to gather and score their third try, although Cory Allen did move several times before finally touching down. That try was also unconverted, and the missed kicks would matter later.
With time up, the Eagles got one back. During a sequence where both USA and Welsh knock-ons could have ended the half, referee Rasta Rasivhenge played a smart advantage. As a result, the USA spun the ball wide and Nick Edwards took the ball and juked in and out, shaking the last Welsh defender en route to the score. Conversion missed, Wales led 15-12 at halftime.
The Americans did take the lead a little over two minutes into the second half. Folau Niua made a break and showed a little more pace than we've seen in a while. He dished to Andrew Durutalo who was smart to simply catch and pass to Test. He threw an over-the-shoulder offload to Hawkins, who went in for the go-ahead try.
The Eagles nearly lost a great attacking opportunity when a short range lineout was thrown not-straight. But the Eagles turned Wales over right after the ensuing scrum on a big ruck from Hawkins, and Luke Hume picked up the ball and scampered in for a try. Niua hit the all-important conversion, making it 24-15 and effectively sealing the win.
Wales scored and converted at the death to pull within two at 24-22, but that try was scored right at the hooter.
The win was big for the Eagles for a lot of reasons – it makes them 1-0 in a pool which they desperately need to get to the Cup Quarterfinals out of, it showed great resilience (which the team hasn’t always displayed), it showcased a little more daring play, which resulted in tries, and the team finally won one of those close ones that came down to conversions.
Tries: Hawkins, Edwards, Hawley, Hume
Cons: Niua, Suniula
Tries: Allen (2), Thomas, Webber
Next up for the USA is Kenya.