The USA men’s 7s team has made the Cup Quarterfinals for an unprecedented 5th time in one season, equaling their Top Eight total of the previous four seasons combined.
It has taken some time, but with three in a row, all with victories against really good teams, the Eagles are feeling confident, but perhaps, in some ways, not quite there.
“We felt we should have beaten Australia,” said USA captain Matt Hawkins, whose side lost 19-15 on a try at the end of the game. “We knew we had Australia. It was our fault, we let it slip. We want to play in the quarters – we’re done playing in the Bowls.”
Hawkins said the turnaround is partly due to the players finding their place, including Head Coach Alex Magleby.
“As a whole we were just trying to find our place and understand our role and what we need to do to keep this thing going forward,” added the captain.
But the big jump was the realization that they could be relegated. Leaving Las Vegas, where they made the quarters, but probably should have finished higher, the understanding that they might have to qualify for core status hit them.
“When the pressure was on, we were forced to find it; it wasn’t coming naturally,” he said. “That’s who we are now and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
As always, Magleby is looking big picture, but also the short-term. The team wants to finish on a high.
“We focused on items we wanted to correct, and the players responded extremely well,” said the coach. “South Africa is a very good team and the contact points were pretty vicious on both sides of the ball. To get the win is huge, some of the players have been on the other end of that against South Africa for many years. Tomorrow is another day for us, and we need to recover now and build on today’s performances.”
The USA, by the way, can catch Canada in the standings. If Canada lose their Bowl Semifinal match against France, then the Americans are guaranteed at least a tie with their North American rivals.
If Canada wins that game, the Eagles will need to win at least one game to catch them.