|Photo: Eric Huss, All World Photos|
The South African 7s team is a juggernaut maybe unlike we've ever seen on the Seven Series. The Eagles were reminded of that for the second week in a row in the semi-finals as they fell 14-10 and will now play in the 3rd/4th place match. Eerily similar to last week the U.S. had to overcome a tough Argentina team in the quarterfinals and then had a chance to beat South Africa in the semi-finals only to find out how good the South African defense can be. The Eagles actually had a chance to win the match late but an outstanding tackle from South Africa killed the overlap and then they held up Andrew Durutalo on the match's final play.
Given how they competed and how they once again had a chance to beat South Africa for a place in the final the U.S. will be disappointed. That is especially true with Danny Barrett given a three match suspension prior to the match. However, they have firmly established themselves as a top team over the last three stops and are guaranteed to move into fifth place alone regardless of what happens in their last match. They are also inching closer and closer to fourth place and could conceivably find themselves there at the end of the year.
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As all of their matches against South Africa have been this one was a bruising affair. Both teams were excellent at the breakdown and it led to a great contest. The difference in the end was the South African defense that completed 92% of their tackles. They also scored on both of their trips to the U.S. 22. Even more telling was their ability to score on short notice. They completed only 13 passes to 58 for the United States.
The match started with both teams knocking it on a couple of times. It could have gone either way early but the U.S. made things happen for themselves with a great counter-ruck from Ben Pinkelman that turned over the ball. From there it was set to Folau Niua to Steve Tomasin to Andrew Durutalo to Martin Iosefo who dived in at the corner. The conversion missed but the Eagles led 5-0.
South Africa did well on restarts and with the possession gained they were able to wear the U.S. down. Eventually that pressure resulted in Philip Snyman scoring a try. Their conversion was good to put them in front at 7-5 at halftime.
Steve Tomasin got the U.S. off to a great start in the second half with a brave win at the restart. That allowed the Eagles to test the South African defense where they eventually found a hole that Andrew Durutalo exploited for the try. Once again the conversion was off and the match was at 10-7.
That lead didn't last long. South Africa were able to come up with the ball from the restart and Rosko Specman easily outpaced the U.S. defense for the try. The conversion put South Africa up 14-10 with several minutes to play.
Penalties on South Africa gave the U.S. several opportunities late in the match and with no time left the Eagles found themselves within meters of the line. However, outstanding defense from South Africa prevented a try and sealed the win.
The U.S. will now move on to play England or Fiji (likely Fiji) in the 3rd/4th place match at 8:52 p.m. et/5:52 p.m. pt.