There’s nothing easy about losing, regardless of the circumstances, and the USA’s 21-19 defeat to Fiji during the USA 7s Cup Quarterfinals is no exception.
For the second game in a row, the fate of the Eagles rested on a game-ending conversion. Although this two-pointer was in Folau Niua’s range, the ball sailed wide right, and the Americans clasped their heads in despair, drastically contrasting with elation witnessed after the Spain game.
“At the stage we’re in, we needed to take any points given to us,” USA’s Shalom Suniula said when considering whether Luke Hume’s corner try [Dobson Images photo] was hasty. “And then just bank on getting the kick, I guess. With our success against Spain last game, we were hoping for the same result.”
Niua had slotted two excellent sideline conversions today, but asking for another game-changer is tough. The loss didn’t rest on Niua’s shoulders, nor was it decided during the final play of the game.
“The difference was the things we did wrong: Lapses in communication and defense saw them score tries that were easily preventable,” Suniula said. “They are easy fixes so hopefully we can improve continually going into tomorrow. We have one more day to try and prove ourselves.”
Fiji did enjoy a bit of luck, most memorably, on the try scored off a USA kickoff.
“Zach Test got a good tap-back, and it was meant to be in our possession,” Suniula recounted the restart. “But the bounce of the rugby ball – that inevitable bounce – it can go either way. Fiji got a good bounce, the boys were scrambling and we ended up getting caught on the switch, and they ended up down under the sticks.”
After that particular score, the USA started lifting Test – something on which the team’s been working a lot lately – for some added height and advantage.
“Fiji is known for winning their own kicks,” Suniula said. “They get good height on the kickoffs, and they’ve got these volleyball-like players tapping back. … We like to think we’re good at our restart receipts, so it was a good challenge.”
Now the USA must focus their sites on Canada, their Plate semifinal opponents. The North American rivalry will rear its head once again, and the USA must hit the pitch with the same tenacity they brought to Fiji tonight. But it’ll be tough.
“We were very disappointed because we believed that we could actually beat Fiji with the momentum that we had coming off the back of Spain,” Suniula said. “There’s no better platform to play off of. The toughest part is to go back to the hotel and reassess what our next job is after a loss.”
The USA kicks off against Canada 10:48 a.m. PST.