The game turned in the first half when Danny Barrett from the USA powered down to about 3 meters from the try line and popped a pass from the ground.... straight to a Scotland player for an intercept that was returned 95 meters the other way. Whether it was poor communication, poor support, or a poor decision, the result yielded a 10 (or 12 given USA's accurate conversions this series) point swing the other way in a game that was decided by a mere 5 points. Also noticeable - lineouts continued to be an issue for the Eagles squad and in the game of 7s, a failure to secure set pieces and take advantage of penalties (as in they kicked away to touch only to turnover the ball in the lineout) leaves many unscored points on the board. Against teams like South Africa and Fiji this leads to efficient turnover tries and must be addressed if the Eagles want to earn their way into the Cup rounds rather than hope for pool play magic and positive point differentials. Fortunately this is a fixable issue.
Other games to note included Wales-Kenya that went down to the wire, Portugal-Argentina if you're into a lot of kicking (I found it rather boring but some people like the territory game) and anything Fiji as they lit up their opposing beating Sri Lanka 56-0 in one of their pool play games and scored 141 points while conceding only 12. England proved somewhat careless again with penalties and a yellow card for a silly infringement, but as in Tokyo they scored when it mattered and came away undefeated in pool play.
In fact, there were an unusual amount of cards in this tournament as Samoa later held on to beat Scotland in the final minute despite a 7 v 6 advantage to the Scots, Portugal had a carded player that doomed them against Argentina, Sri Lanka received a yellow vs Fiji, South Africa received one against Spain for jersey pulling (after Spain had been warned for the same thing) and France had 3 players sent to the sin bin vs Australia. Perhaps it was the rain?
As the Cup round kicks off there should be some amazing games played. Australia's coach Mick O'Connor is coaching his final Hong Kong 7s and their side has been impressive. Canada is also strong, fast, and reliable in making their 4th Cup Quarterfinals and could move as high as 6th in the iRB standings as Argentina, Samoa and Kenya in the Bowl. New Zealand is on a bit of a tear and looking to make up for their 4th place finish at Tokyo 7s. And Fiji looks nearly unstoppable - but the Eagles had their numbers in Tokyo and could prove more than just a roadbump. That game is at 11:28pm EST.
In the Qualifier matches Japan, Russia, Italy and Hong Kong advance to the semifinals. The winner gets a core spot in the next year's series; my money is on Japan to take it! But the home side Hong Kong has looked excellent too. Russia wasn't as impressive in the game I watched vs Zimbabwe as they had quite a few ball handling errors and played a little slowly. Italy is a team I'd keep an eye on in coming seasons too!
Here are the iRB recaps.... I didn't make it past 4am due to all the hour breaks and the earlier rain delay in the action. Hong Kong 7s with their set up makes for some long days of game play and as a player in training myself, I just couldn't answer the alarm set for 5:15am when I had only shut my eyes at 3:50am. Thankfully I was able to pause the iRB stream and should be able to catch up on a few key matches before the action tonight! Highlights from the main draw are here, from the qualifier here.