USA undefeated after Day 1
For team USA, a win over Samoa was likely the piece necessary to secure consecutive cup quarterfinal births. Prior to Coach Friday’s arrival to the USA fewer than three years ago, matches against Samoa were assumed losses. Since Friday took over, team USA has gone 5–2 against Samoa. Mind you, the series record before then was 21–3 in Samoa’s favor.
The United States, known for dominant kickoffs behind the sure boot of Folau Niua failed to grab the opening kick. It proved not to be a problem as the Eagles soon got the ball back and demonstrated offensive brilliance before the jubilant crowd, ultimately sending Sydney dream team selection Danny Barrett across for the first try of the match. Captain Madison Hughes added the conversion. Despite a second restart falling into Samoan hands, the Eagles once more found ball in hand after Barrett and Andrew Durutalo forced a turnover. The physical playmakers soon added their power to the offensive phase as well when Durutalo hit Barrett for his second try in the far right corner. The resulting restart, though once more caught by a Samoan, was perfectly placed to favor team USA, as the Samoan player soon landed in touch. A short while later, Samoa finally made great territory after breaking tackles by both Niua and Hughes. Speedburner Perry Baker got back in time to prevent the try, instead forcing a knock on just ten meter shy of the USA line. As the hooter sounded, Hughes fed the scrum. His big boys up front got the job done in the scrum and Niua was able to boot to touch to end the half and escape with the 12–0 advantage.
In the second half, team USA kept the pressure on, this time with a try for Niua. Hughes added the conversion to pull ahead 19–0. Samoa refused to go down without a fight as Tila Mealoi got his side on the board with a try in the far left corner. Samoa committed an infraction on the ensuing kick, giving USA a free kick. In no hurry to speed things up, Niua took the kick extremely slowly. The Eagles were soon once more on attack but a pass from Martin Iosefo deep in Samoan territory cost possession. With two minutes left, Samoa still had enough time to at least pull a draw. The Eagles managed to slow things down by earning a scrum just inside their own half. The Americans won the scrum and soon earned a penalty for the high tackle. With thirty seconds remaining, Niua kicked for touch. The Americans won the lineout, and instead settling for the win, they pushed for one more score, leading to a hat trick for Danny Barrett and another impressive conversion to the ever-growing resume of Hughes.
USA go 2-0 in day one of pool play. Looking very strong #USA7s
Posted by USA Sevens Rugby on Friday, March 3, 2017
The last time these two sides faced off was at the 2015 Pan Am Games, where the United States prevailed by the astonishing margin of 52–0. The teams faced each other at the 2011 Pan Am Games and the USA eked out a 14–7 win. Their only prior meeting in Series competition was a 40–12 win for the United States ath 2008 USA Sevens. More recently, the USA Falcons faced Chile twice in January during the South American Sevens Series. Each match went the way of the South Americans.
The early minutes of the must-win match here in Vegas revealed to the Eagles that Chile was not going to back down. Facing stiff defense, captain Madison Hughes attempted to chip through the Chilean defense, but the ball failed to skirt through cleanly, instead it careened of a Chilean, but Martin Iosefo remained Johnny on the spot for the try. With the conversion missed, team USA stood in front 5–0. Chile probed into the American twenty-two before a turnover and swift cut by Hughes set up a second try for Iosefo. This time, the conversion by Hughes was true, extending the lead to 12–0.
If you have a friend asking why you love rugby sevens, the third try of the half for team USA is the clip that can sum it up. A cracking run into the Chilean half, looked to be a try for Hughes on the right corner, but he was forced to pass and the pass was broken up. Perry Baker rushed in to clean up the loose ball, passed it back into the middle and a kick pass to the outside seconds later sent Danny Barrett over in the left corner for his fourth try of the tournament. As if that weren’t enough, Hughes added the extremely tough kick from the left touch line. Pure magic to give team USA the 19–0 lead.
The second half almost added another for the highlight reel right out of the gate when Baker spun through several tackles before an errant pass eventually led to a Chilean scrum. Chile had a scoring opportunity but foolishly decided to kick ahead against Perry Baker. As you might have guessed, Baker won that race, as he will every day of the week. Unfortunately, Hughes took a blow to the eye in the exchange, forcing him to depart early from the match. The deep twenty-two dropout, gave Chile plenty of room to build an attack. A chip over the line, looked to have worked, but the American defense stood tough, and the Eagles were soon rewarded with a try from Stephen Tomasin. Tomasin added his own conversion to push the shutout to twenty-six in front. With a minute remaining, Patt Blair got in the scorer’s colum. The Eagles won the final restart, but soon conceded a penalty. With time expiring, a step around Matai Leuta and Folau Niua gave Chile one last chance of getting some points. The USA defense stood tall and forced a penalty at their own five-meter. With the kick out of the back of in-goal. United States 31, Chile 0. Team USA caps Day 1 undefeated. If England defeats Samoa in the next match, the Eagles will start Day 2 with a quarterfinal birth secured.