Eagles into Dubai Bowl Quarterfinals
USA v. New Zealand (1:48 a.m. ET)
In their 17th sevens encounters since 2000, New Zealand just seemed to get the bounce of the ball against the Eagles which is a difficult thing to overcome for any opposition.
Despite being under pressure early, the USA showed vast improvement in their restarts and played with confidence with ball in hand compared to their five Series point performance in Gold Coast last week.
New Zealand’s first score came from Tomassi Cama, New Zealand’s key playmaker who found himself on the wing after his teammates turned the ball over in a ruck in the USA half. Kiwi captain DJ Forbes drew in two defenders and moved the ball wide and capitalized on the quick turnover.
Cama would score again the second half and inch 10 points closer to moving to second on the list of all-time points scorers in the IRB Sevens Series with 1295. Current Seattle, Wash. resident, and Fijian rugby sevens legend, Waisale Serevi, currently holds second place on that list with 1310 points.
Another quick score came to New Zealand off the kickoff through Frank Halai. New Zealand starved the Eagles of ball and scored again as Lote Raikabula got an inside pass from Tim Mikkelson on a break.
The Eagles got a spark before halftime as USA veteran Mike Palefau made a great break outside and slowed for his support. The Eagles had numbers wide and put in a cross kick that was all but destined for the charging Matt Hawkins, but the bounce of the ball was cruel and Tim Mikkelson was gifted a try by the rugby gods as the ball bounced straight into his arms and he took it back for a five-pointer.
The second half showed the Eagles’ restart improvement, but New Zealand’s wiliness at the breakdown made life very difficult for the USA after the tackle. Another nice run by Palefau in the second half ended with another fortuitous try by New Zealand as Palefau’s no-look pass intended for his support hit Cama in the chest, who gathered it quickly and darted off for a score with Palefau clipping at his heels.
New Zealand 40
Tries: Halai (2), Cama (2), Arnold, Robertson, Mikkelson, Raikabula
USA v. South Africa (5:54 a.m. ET)
After taking on 2010-2011 Series Champions New Zealand earlier in the day, the Eagles faced last year's Series runners up, South Africa. The USA didn’t see much ball and had possession snatched from them at the breakdown. A try from University of Arizona standout Peter Tiberio would account for the USA's only try in the game.
South Africa captain, Kyle Brown, made an impact straight away for his team and turned the corner on the Eagles for a score. Branco du Preez added another off the kickoff, gassing his way through a half-gap in midfield to score under the posts.
A great defensive effort by Nick Edwards saved another try, holding du Preez up in the try zone. South Africa, however, would go on to tally 24 points before halftime.
The second half started with an unforced error by South Africa, and the Eagles’ solid lineout allowed them to build up phases. Zack Test broke out a good run, but a penalty gave the ball back to the Springboks.
A deep restart and a nice take by Colin Hawley started a good patient build up by the USA that eventually saw Peter Tiberio collect an offload from Matt Hawkins and score with time winding down.
Tries: Dazel, Richards, Botha, Brown, du Preez, Prinsloo
Cons: Dazel (2), Richards
USA v. Portugal (8:30 a.m. ET)
The Eagles had a thriller against a very good Portugal team in the USA's last Pool B clash on day one in Dubai. Strong defense in the first half kept the scores level at halftime, but a key Portuguese conversion from the touchline in the second half proved to be the difference-maker.
The USA was playing with a lot of swagger in the encounter, working hard to keep the ball alive and not engage in a breakdown scuffle. The result was great pressure on Portugal that eventually gave Colin Hawley a chance to break through the defense. A stunning spin move by Hawley and an injection of pace saw the Series vet into the try zone before halftime and the scores were tied.
From the kickoff, Portugal maintained possession and ended up with another try through Duarte Moreira. USA captain Shalom Suniula forced Moreira to score on the far right touchline, but despite the captain’s efforts the conversion attempt was good by Diogo Miranda.
The Eagles continued to play with confidence. Some creativity created an opportunity for Nick Edwards who did his best to score the ball in a position for Niua to tie the game. A tough angle for Niua saw the ball sail across the front of the posts.
Portugal maintained possession for the final minute following the USA score and that would be the game.
Tries: Hawley, Edwards
Tries: Esteves, Moreira