The USA downed short-handed Canada and Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to reach a Sevens World Series tournament quarterfinal for the first time since 2010.
The outcome lifts the 7s Eagles to 3 places to 12th on the world circuit, after 3 of this year's 8 regular-season tournaments. Twelfth carries automatic qualification for the 2013-14 campaign, whereas the 3 lowest of the 15 'core' teams face a season-end qualifying tournament.
In South Africa, the Eagles slumped out of the gate, conceding three first-half tries to Portugal, all converted, in a 26-12 loss. Over the past three campaigns, the US has been a poor day-one performer.
In the Canadian match, the tournament's pivotal contest, Maple Leaf playmaker Phil Mack was dismissed with his side holding a 7-0 first-half lead. Luke Hume, the 15s wing who supplanted Mike Te'o from the Dubai roster and, after the opening loss, took Shalom Suniula's starting position, promptly ran in a pair of converted touchdowns to pace the US to a 26-12 victory.
Jack Halalilo scored a pair in day's one final, a 21-17 win over Zimbabwe.
'We were a bit loose with the ball and we made it hard for ourselves, especially in the first half against Portugal. We started to wake up in the second half and then continued to play better in the last two games', coach Alex Magleby said in a prepared statement.
On day two, South Africa dismissed the US from the cup 17-7, while Wales captured a 26-19 contest with 13 seconds left in their plate semifinal, an intercept try proving the difference.
With England a surprising 13th, yet to reach the winner's bracket this campaign and therefore highly likely to move up, at least one from among the US, 11th-ranked Canada, and 9th-place Portugal figure to be in jeopardy. Magleby's charges probably will need to reach the quarterfinals twice more in the next five tournaments to be sure of avoiding a June re-qualifier in London.
UCLA joined the Varsity Cup, alongside Air Force, BYU, Cal, Dartmouth, Navy, Notre Dame, and Utah. Expected to be staged over three weekends in April and early May, the knockout competition is independent of USARFU's division 1A postseason.