The USA Men's Eagle Sevens team took out Zimbabwe 26-0 in the Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa Sevens bowl quarterfinals, but fell to Canada 12-22 in the semis to bow out of the tournament with five Series points and 17 points total on the season.
A solid day one performance from the Eagles continued on the second day of the tournament, with the USA moving past Zimbabwe in the quarterfinals.
A call for more patience from head coach Al Caravelli was heeded by his players and their first score against Zimbabwe illustrated their understanding. It came from a patient build up in the Zimbabwe half, testing the defense and waiting for the time to strike. Peter Tiberio did the honors, banging through the defense and stretching out in the tackle to score under the posts. Mark Bokhoven added another score before halftime, backing his pace and jetting past the drifting Zimbabwe defense.
There was a certain tranquility in the second half for the Eagles and the result was clinical execution. Tiberio scored his second try, hitting a gap and capitalizing on lackluster scrum defense from Zimbabwe. The Eagles scored the best team try of the day to finish the game as Andrew Durutalo popped a pass over the head of his defender to Duncan Kelm who found space and expertly directed his support runner, Zack Test, to hit a switch. Give Test any open space and he'll finish, just as he did to end the game.
Against Canada, however, the Eagles struggled to find an answer for Canada's counterattack.
Canada's Sean Duke started the scoring in the semifinal, turning the corner on the Eagles' defense and going 60 meters untouched. A patient series of play from the Eagles built up pressure on Canada, and a change of field set Test off on a break to the try line. Tries from Harry Jones and Lucas Hammond put the Canadians up by ten points at the half.
To get back in the game, the Eagles needed two tries and Andrew Durutalo provided one with three minutes to go. It was Durutalo's first try for the USA and the rookie looked very comfortable on the sevens field. Some interesting calls at the breakdown didn't do the USA any favors and allowed Canada to wind the clock down. A crucial turnover on the deck gave Sean Duke the opportunity to cash in on a sweeper-less American defense for the closing score, putting the Eagles out of bowl final contention. The 12-22 loss would end the Eagles' South Africa campaign.
A rivalry with Argentina (although the USA have won the last six encounters) has fueled the Eagles in those encounters, and USA Head Coach Al Caravelli believes a similar mentality against Canada is needed, especially moving towards qualification for the Olympics as the two North American nations will battle for a spot in the 2016 Games.
Good progress over the first three legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series is a promising sign for the Eagles, but there are a few fixes needed before the Series gets going again in February.
"It's frustrating to make huge strides and let these guys (England and Samoa) off the hook," said Caravelli of his team's solid performance on day one in South Africa. Allowing teams to score soft tries early in games has been an issue for the Eagles, and one Caravelli means to remedy.
With the move to full-time residency at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. in January 2012, the Eagles will enjoy a full-time training environment and an opportunity to fine-tune systems year-round, a luxury many of the top teams have had for several years.
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