Depleted Falcons falter at end of South America trip

VINA DEL MAR, Chile - The USA Falcons went 5-7 at two rugby sevens tournaments, part of Sudamérica Rugby Sevens Series, in South America to open the 2017 calendar year.

Head Coach Paul Holmes' squad went down to 11 players following Alex Elkins' injury at Punta del Este 7s, where the Falcons lost a close third-place match against Chile, and finished Viña del Mar 7s Sunday, Jan. 15, with a defeat of Brazil for a seventh-place result. Several Falcons will return to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center to continue their paths to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series selection.

Originally scheduled to play Series opponents Canada and Fiji in pool play in Chile on the second weekend, the Falcons faced South American representatives Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay Saturday, Jan. 14, two-thirds of Team USA's Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games pool. Despite capitalizing on a Uruguayan yellow card to take an early lead in the tournament's opening match, the Falcons dropped their first opportunity at points, and held on to a slim margin of victory to beat Brazil in match No. 2.

Argentina, which upended a dominant Fiji team the weekend prior to take home the Punta del Este title, continued its roll in Chile with three pool victories, including a 26-0 shutout of the Falcons. Holmes' team - losing players by the minute to injury at the tail end of a two-week tour - missed qualification for the tournament Semifinals with a loss to the home team in Sunday's Quarterfinal matchup, and fell to Colombia before ending the trip on a high note against Brazil.

With the full complement of players, the Falcons were more energized in Uruguay. Showing grit and determination, the developmental national team showed up early for a 26-5 defeat of Uruguay and hung in with Brazil for a 17-10, come-from-behind victory. Argentina took advantage of the Falcons trying to force the issue at the end of pool play, and Fiji ended championship hopes with a Semifinal shutout.

Fiji beat Argentina on aggregate between the two events for the 2017 Sudamérica Rugby Sevens Series title, with Chile and Uruguay behind them in third and fourth, respectively. As the highest non-core Series teams, Chile and Uruguay have both gained entry to the Series qualifier tournament at April's Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong 7s. The Condors will also serve as the invited team at HSBC USA Sevens in Las Vegas and HSBC Canada Sevens in British Columbia in March.

USA Falcons | South America Tour
Walt Elder - Kansas City Blues
Alex Elkins - Columbus Rugby Club
JP Eloff - Chicago Lions Rugby Football Club
Alex Faison-Donahoe - Kutztown University
Matt Hughston - Charlotte Rugby Football Club
Cody Jerabek - Laramie Lumberjacks Rugby Club
Tua Laei
Chris Mattina - New York Athletic Club
Aladdin Schirmer - Seattle Saracens
Joey Sok
Keaweamahi "Havea" Unufe
Anthony Welmers - Grand Rapids Gazelles Rugby Football Club

USA Falcons | Coaching Staff
Paul Holmes - Head Coach
Kevin Ng - Athletic Trainer

USA Falcons | Punta del Este 7s
v. Uruguay - W 26-6
v. Brazil - W 17-10
v. Argentina - L 38-0
QF v. Colombia - W 14-12
SF v. Fiji - L 45-0
Third-Place v. Chile - L 19-7

USA Falcons | Viña del Mar 7s
v. Uruguay - L 14-12
v. Brazil - W 12-5
v. Argentina - L 26-0
QF v. Chile - L 26-10
Fifth-Place SF v. Colombia - L 26-15
Seventh-Place v. Brazil - W 14-7