The USA took care of business on the first game of Day Two at the Dubai 7s, defeating the always difficult Zimbabwe
“We’re a scalp to them, they target us,” said USA Head Coach Al Caravelli. “They are very fast, very physical. So what we [needed] to do is play solid defense; they counter the rucks well. We [needed] to play our best against them.”
Caravelli tinkered with his lineup on Day One, benching Mark Bokhoven, Matt Hawkins and Nick Edwards for the final match against Portugal. Those that started in their place – Colin Hawley, Duncan Kelm and Peter Tiberio – showed well, and the benching seemed to be a message to the veterans to step up their games.
The message was heard, as the USA not only started well, but kept their foot on the throat of Zimbabwe the entire game.
“If we’re manned up, we want to put pressure on them,” said Caravelli. “But no matter who you play, you’ve got to make your up-front tackles. Our goal is to make those one-on-one tackles and talk a lot more, too.”
The Eagles also worked on not bunching around the rucks. On Friday, especially against South Africa, the players seemed to clog around the rucks, and thus when they were forced to chase out to cover out wide, the players were making themselves work needlessly hard.
All that seemed to come together, in a good way, against Zimbabwe. Some terrific team play set up Shalom Suniula to dip through and over for an early score, and while Zimbabwe replied a minute later, on a brilliant centering kick, that was it for the African team.
Mike Palefau scored, fed by Mark Bokhoven from a lineout, and then some more good ball movement put Zack Test away to make it 17-7 at halftime, Test scoring after the first-half hooter. And then Palefau scored two killer tries – one off the kickoff after a long Suniula run and some quick rucking from the scrumhalf set him up, and the other after Bokhoven's attentions forced a loose ball in-goal that the center pounced on. Up 29-7 the Eagles dominated from then on. Nick Edwards unselfishly set up sub Miles Craigwell, and then was rewarded when he sliced up the defense with time running out.
Now the USA plays Canada in the Bowl Semifinal, now that Canada shocked the out-of-form Samoa 26-17.
With World Series points on offer in every game, everything means that much more.
“The new system absolutely matters to us,” said Caravelli. “When we beat Zimbabwe that’s an additional five points. Then it’s a tough draw for us after that. But every game matters for points.”
Tries: Suniula, Palefau 3, Test, Craigwell, Edwards
Convs: Niua 2, Suniula
Tries: White 3, Mack
Convs: Hirayama 3
Tries: Iosefo 2, Lui
USA plays Canada 1:24 am PT, 4:24 am ET