Alafoti Faosiliva scored his second try of a tense final with no time on the clock as fifth-ranked Samoa downed first-place New Zealand 26-19 to claim its second USA 7s title in three years.
Six different teams have won the tournament since its 2004 debut, making it one of the least predictable stops on the Sevens World Series. Though the Kiwis have won approximately two-thirds of all tour stops over the past seven campaigns, they have tasted victory only twice in America and not since 2008.
Before bumper crowd of 64,000 for the three-day affair, the US dropped pool matches to Canada and Argentina en route to a 1-4 bowl semifinal exit. Booing followed, an unusual and unhappy phenomenon.
'If you look at our games this week, all of the games have been pretty competitive. So, we’re almost there, we just have got to make sure our players don’t lose sight of it and they keep their confidence high and continue to progress', 7s coach Al Caravelli said in a prepared statement.
On Friday the Eagles held a 12-7 halftime lead over the Maple Leafs, but fell 19-12. Fiji comfortably won a 33-19 contest. The Pumas then prevailed 14-12 in a Saturday game that saw no second-half scoring.
Later that day in the consolation bracket, the US notched a pair of second-term tries, by Folau Niua and Peter Tiberio, to down sixth-ranked France 21-5. The hopeful outcome underlined that obtaining and maintaining possession is pivotal. Against France, the US kept the ball; particularly in close-range situations against the Maple Leafs and the Pumas, the Eagles were turned over.
Similarly, in the tournament-ending 14-12 loss to Australia, as in a key play of the Canadian match, the US struggled with kickoffs. The Aussies tactically placed the ball near the sideline, appearing to confuse the US.
The boundary also figured when Maka Unufe sought to round the Wallaby defense. Contrary to USARFU's report that the 'assistant referee had put his flag high into the air claiming Unufe’s foot had felt the grass on the touch line', television replays showed the wing was a yard or more out of bounds.
If the youngster's mistake conclusively stamped the Eagles' weekend as unpolished, NBC's national television commentary helpfully observed Unufe was running into sunlight and may not have seen the sideline at all, instead believing he was inside another marking. Whatever the explanation, the network team was more easily fluent and effective in communicating 7s to an American audience than the International Rugby Board regulars who called the action online at NBC Universal's web site.
One outlet for novices and another for experts: sensible and encouraging.
Among the tournament's other highlights were 28 percent growth in attendance from year-ago figures, and the sister Las Vegas Invitational's expansion to some 20 brackets, including national teams from Chile, Mexico, Romania, and Spain.
In the elite age-grade bracket, the High School All-Americans dropped a 35-14 final to British Columbia. The Bears' 2d side finished third, besting another Canadian province, Ontario, while the USA's understudies failed to reach the semis. Rugby Magazine reported the Americans were understrength; but the embarrassment is no less real.
The tournament's outcomes sees the US fall to 13th place, passed by Kenya, which downed 9th-ranked Argentina in the plate final. 10th-ranked Canada won the bowl over Australia, tied with France in 6th.
The USA 7s and 7s Eagles thus look to be heading in different directions, but few sports businesses long outperform the team on the field.
USA 7s Champions
2012 Samoa 26 New Zealand 19
2011 South Africa 24 Fiji 14
2010 Samoa 33 New Zealand 12
2009 Argentina 19 England 14
2008 New Zealand 27 South Africa 12
2007 Fiji 38 Samoa 24
2006 England 38 Fiji 5
2005 New Zealand 35 Argentina 5
2004 Argentina 21 New Zealand 12