The USA Men's 7s team had Australia on the ropes, leading 14-12 into the half during their first Glasgow 7s game today. But an unfortunate knock-on on the Aussies' 10-meter line, which led to a Shannon Walker try, broke the Eagles' confidence, and the USA lost 29-14.
It was an ominous opening for the Eagles as the USA's first possession led to an Australian try 25 seconds into the match. Colin Hawley came down with the receipt and Australia sent two players into the ruck. Rocco Mauer rolled the first defender off the breakdown, and as he slowly took his feet, realized too late that he needed to ship the ball away from contact. Australia used that lapse in awareness to send another player into the ruck, and the pressure forced a USA penalty.
Allan Fa'alava'au quick-tapped through the ball, threw out a nice sidestep and evaded the outstretched arms of Folau Niua. Matt Lucas hit the conversion.
Off the subsequent kickoff, the USA did an excellent job of keeping the ball alive and recycled well. Pass after pass ricocheted off the touchlines, and the Eagles' patience was finally rewarded as Niua found the seam for which he was looking. He trotted beneath the posts and converted his score for the tie.
The third kickoff of the game produced another try, this time from Australia. This time, it was so much a dazzling sidestep or patient teamwork, but a poor tackling attempt from Zach Test, who fell off of Jesse Parahi on the touchline. The hooker ran in the long-range try uncontested, 12-7.
The Eagles took the lead into the break, when Hawley was looking to move the ball away from the ruck. He looked left, right, and then spotted some room off the fringe. He attacked up the middle, brushed off one defender close to the tackle and another coming across, then finished off 70+ meters alone. Niua converted the try for the 14-12 lead.
The game was for the USA's taking. Although Australia had some nice individual displays, they weren't technically sound when the Eagles' defense was on point. Missed passes and connections were prevalent on either side, so it was going to come down to who held onto the ball in enemy territory.
The Eagles took advantage of an Australian handling error in their end and immediately started working the ball sideline to sideline. The USA weren't getting their running lines quite right, which allowed the Aussies to contain the Eagles with relative ease.
But the USA stuck with it, and Hawley finally sent a long pass to Test all alone in space. He danced laterally around several defenders, and by the time the rest of the opposition trekked across the field, he'd broken through the line. An Australian penalty kept the ball in the USA's hands as the passes broke down slightly, and the Eagles were poised to go up another five points on Australia.
There's an excellent chance that Hawley would have scored off the quick tap given the pace at which he hit the line, but the ball rebounded off his chest into the hands of Australia. Mauer chased down the ballcarrier to midfield, but one pass to flyer Shannon Walker and another five points were added to Australia's tally. Lucas slotted his final conversion of the day for the 19-12 lead.
The game was far from over; four minutes remained in the game. But that turnover try dampened the USA, and Australia took the momentum and ran away with it. Con Foley and Junior Rasolea added tries for the 29-14 win.
A very disappointing result for the USA, and the road only gets more difficult from here. The Eagles will face England next and then Kenya. England defeated Kenya 40-7 in pool A's first match.
Tries: Fa'alava'au, Parahi, Walker, Foley, Rasolea
Conversions: Lucas 2
Tries: Niua, Hawley
Conversions: Niua 2