The USA is in to the Bowl semifinals after beating Papua New Guinea 24-5 Saturday at the Gold Coast 7s.
The Eagles weathered a couple of small mistakes, especially after their own kickoffs, but played smart, team 7s rugby to win fairly comfortable.
The game started with a trick play, as the Eagles opted for a kick off to the right wing for Nick Edwards. But Shalom Suniula’s kickoff didn’t go ten meters, giving PNG a free kick.
The USA defense was good, however, and after getting the ball back, the Americans went all the way to the opposing tryline. Edwards was involved twice, including at the end, where he was held up in-goal.
But that just meant a five-meter scrum for one of the best scrum teams in the Sevens World Series. The USA won the strike and spun it wide, where Shalom Suniula eventually scored.
Up 5-0, the USA made another mistake on the kickoff. Zack Test nabbed the ball in the air, but the Eagles were pinged for an offense in the ruck that they shouldn’t have committed and PNG quick-tapped and 65 meters later Dougie Guise was in at the corner. That made it 5-5, but any thoughts of an upset for PNG were ended seconds later. Test went up again for the kickoff and was taken out in the air by Shadrach Ghabiliha. That earned the PNG player a yellow card, and the USA did well to take advantage. They were patient with the ball and worked both sidelines before Matt Hawkins made the key run. Test did well to recycle and then Mike Palefau drew two defenders and fed Edwards, who walked over.
That made it 10-5 at halftime, and right after the second half begun, and still up a man, the USA made it 17-5.
This time it was simple ball movement that gave Palefau a sniff of a gap and he beat three men to go in from 35 out.
PNG made their best break of the second half after that, but some excellent perimeter defense from Mark Bokhoven forced a lineout deep in the USA half. The Eagles took a quick lineout and worked their way downfield. A long pass from Suniula was caught by Edwards on the bounce, and he did the rest to make it 24-5.
PNG had one more shot, but the USA defense held, and they happily took the win and now face Scotland in the Bowl semis.
The win guarantees the USA at least five points in the HSBC Sevens World Series. Beating Scotland will give them seven, and a Bowl Win eight.
Notes: The experimental sub rules in effect for this tournament allow teams to use all five subs. USA Head Coach Al Caravelli has taken full advantage. He has started the same seven players for all four games so far, and used all his subs as well, ensuring game time and experience for his newer players.
The USA plays Scotland at 12:50am ET, 9:50pm Friday night PT
Tries: Edwards 2, Suniula, Palefau
Convs: Niua 2
Lineup: Hawkins, Test, Bokhoven, Suniula, Niua, Palefau, Edwards
Subs: Tiberio, Craigwell, Hawley, Kelm, Enosa
Lineup: Diave, Ghabiliha, Guise, Tokavai, McLay, Kautu, Levi
Subs: Torea, Kakah, Liliket, Missian, Varo