Friday, December 2, 2016

Dubai 7s: Missed Conversions Hurt Eagles In Loss To South Africa

Although the Eagles arguably played their best match of the tournament so far they will still have to contend for the Challenge Trophy on day two of the Dubai 7s after losing to South Africa 19-17. Had the Eagles been able to convert two of their penalties that clanged off the post they would have been able to not only come away with the win but a place in the top eight. However, it was the overall lack of execution, in particular poor passing, that did the Eagles in. They will now have to regroup and try to win the Challenge Trophy and take momentum into Cape Town.

It didn't take South Africa long to get on the board. A great planned play from the start saw Cecil Afrika break through the defense to go under the posts for a 7-0 lead. The U.S. responded with some good possession but the South African defense was up to the task to keep the U.S. off the board. South Africa then grabbed a second try as Seabelo Senatla slipped through U.S. tackling.

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Not to head into the break with a try Perry Baker showed some new nuance to his game to grab a score. Teams have been able to contain Baker in a corner all match but this time Baker put in a chip over the top of the defense. The bounce wasn't favorable at first but he kicked it on soccer style until he was able to get past the defense and touch it down. However, the conversion attempt was from a rough angle and Hughes's kick clanged off the post.

The were down at the half 14-5 but unlike their mood earlier in the day you had the sense that they were going to continue to take it to South Africa. That's exactly how it played out early in the half. After winning the ball back at the breakdown Steve Tomasin made a break in the line and then sized up his defender to bowl over for the score. Unfortunately for the second time the conversion was off the post meaning South Africa led 14-10.

The match turned on a disappointing play from the Eagles perspective. On a line out deep in their own end a bad pass from Hughes was spilled allowing Senatla to recover and score what would be the winning try. The U.S. got a late try from Perry Baker but it came after the hooter meaning the Eagles couldn't make it back for the win.

Had the U.S. made their conversions, which were both at a difficult angle, it would have been a different narrative but nonetheless it's something to work on moving forward. What will disappoint the Eagles most is that they were sluggish to start the day overall and in particular against South Africa that they were able to play even with the Blitzbokke but couldn't come away with the result.

The U.S. will next play at 1:36 a.m. et/10:36 p.m. pt. 

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