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Team USA opened its account at the Silicon Valley 7s with a 29-7 defeat of Tonga in the final match of the first round of pool play. The game was played at the tail end of a rainstorm which saw some sloppy matches in the lead-up, including a 7-0 upset of New Zealand by Chile.
This one started sloppily, too, with Tonga taking the early lead before the Eagles stormed back. The rally was paced by four tries from Stephen Tomasin.
The United States opened with possession, swinging the ball sideline to sideline through a handful of phases. The Eagles worked themselves deep into the attacking end, until the wet ball slipped out of Folau Niua’s hands mid-pass. The USA nearly scored seconds later when an errant pass was scooped up by the Eagles, but Matai Leuta was held up in the try zone.
The sloppy conditions continued to hold the Eagles back when poor passing saw them lose a lot of yardage following the five-meter scrum. Tonga wasn’t able to hold onto the ball any better, settling for fly hacks down the field to reverse territory.
The Sea Eagles would eventually break the stalemate in the final minute of the half, when a run up the left flank resulted in an offload from the ground for a try. Leuta nearly stopped the pass, but the ball slid just under his arms and into the hands of the scorer. The try was converted – 7-0. There was time enough for one more kickoff, but it rolled into touch, and Chris Mattina touched it down, resulting in a midfield free kick.
The USA ran a set play for Malon Al-jiboori, who bowled through three Tongans on the wing. While the one Sea Eagle in the ruck was appealing to the referee for a penalty, Tomasin picked up the ball and squirted up the blindside for a score. The touchline conversion was good, drawing the USA to within two at halftime.
The young Oklahoman made his presence felt again early in the second half, bursting up the right sideline, again soaking up three Tongans. The ball was spun immediately to Tomasin on the other wing, and he dove in for the score. Niua’s conversion was made, putting the Eagles up 12-7.
The USA extended the advantage when Ben Pinkelman and Ryan Matyas won a counter ruck, turning the ball over for Kevon Williams to march in. This touchline conversion was missed, making it 17-7.
Tomasin secured his hat trick right after reserves Anthony Welmers and Joe Schroeder stole a Tongan lineout deep in the attacking end, and Tomasin ran in off the out pass. He made it a four-bagger when Niua stripped the ball from a Sea Eagle and Williams fixed the defense to earn another try. One of the final two scores were converted, ending the contest.