Fans love the game of rugby sevens because of the way the USA v. Hong Kong match finished on day one of the Tokyo Sevens. The Eagles were down by a score with only 10 seconds on the clock. A single mistake could mean the difference between a win and a loss. Patience by the USA with time expiring set up a line break and an eventual heroic try for USA flyer Rocco Mauer to tie the game, allowing Tai Enosa to convert and win it 21-19. That is the kind of pulsating stuff that fans can expect in 2016 when sevens debuts in the Olympics.
The Eagles will now enter the Tokyo Sevens Bowl Quarterfinals against Kenya. That game kicks off on Saturday March 31 at 7:06 p.m. Mountain/9:06 p.m. Eastern. Day two of the tournament will be shown live tomorrow on Universalsports.com starting at 6 p.m. Mountain/ 8 p.m. Eastern.
The USA's earlier Pool B encounters in Tokyo against Australia and New Zealand weren't as close as the Hong Kong match. New Zealand beat the USA 5-26 and Australia blanked the Eagles 0-15. A high penalty count and handling errors hurt the Eagles, and Australia and New Zealand are teams that can really hurt you when you don't look after the ball.
USA Head Coach Alexander Magleby knows that his team didn't perform to their potential, but also knows that there are quick fixes to help them tomorrow and longer term fixes that will need to be installed outside of a tournament environment.
Reducing the number of penalties and keeping possession of the ball are the quick fixes and the longer term solutions involve an on-field culture that will come with time and training.
"There is no magic pill that you take and your on-field culture's right. It's doing the work in training," said Magleby.
Positives from the Hong Kong game will serve as a foundation when the USA plays Kenya tomorrow, namely the ability to keep grinding for a win.
"There is no easy opponent and Hong Kong is a good team. At the end of the day, we were our own worst enemy. We gave away a lot of possession that we didn't have to give away," said Magleby. "Coming back from two tries down was a very healthy exercise."
A notable USA Rugby landmark was reached in the Hong Kong game. Zack Test, one of the team's inspirational leaders, scored the Eagles' first try of the game and claimed a crucial restart that swung the momentum back towards the Eagles. However it was his try that is of historical significance. That score was Test's 50th try on the IRB Sevens World Series, making the 22 year-old the only American to ever achieve that feat.
Tries: Test, Durutalo, Mauer
Cons: Enosa (3)
Hong Kong 19
Tries: Varty(2), Hood
Cons: Hood (2)
Tries: Yakopo (2), Fa'alava'au
New Zealand 26
Tries: Cama, Savea, Heem, Piutau
Cons: Cama (3)
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