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The USA men's 7s team shut out Scotland 17-0 to win the Plate at the Tokyo 7s, the first time they have won the Plate in a World Series tournament in 12 years.
The USA started the game with only ten men to call on, as Carlin Isles picked up a concussion earlier in the day against New Zealand, and captain Matt Hawkins picked up a leg injury.
Zack Test captained the team in the absence of Hawkins, and Test featured in the opening try for the USA.
The Eagles worked the ball nicely side to side and up the field. A Test half-break worried the Scottish defense enough and then a nifty kick ahead by Folau Niua put Nick Edwards close to the line. Then a small break from Niua allowed him to feed Andrew Durutalo, who carried his tackler over the line.
A 5-0 lead, but Scotland got the ball right back as the Eagles were offside on the restart. Scotland kept up the pressure, but the USA tackling was really superb, forcing Scotland to work for every meter.
Eventually, a Colin Hawley/Shalom Suniula gang tackle forced a Scottish pass into touch to end the half.
Scotland had spent three minutes with the ball in and around the USA 22, and come away with nothing.
Both teams were clearly tired, but the USA did seem to be running on fumes; as they huddled for the second half their cheer was simple - "finish!"
Finish, who knows, but they started, as Test won the restart nicely, and Hawley picked the ball from a ruck quickly and fed Suniula, who raced to the corner.
He then slotted the conversion from the touchline to make it USA 12, Scotland 0.
The USA pressure on defense kept Scotland at bay after that, and even shook up the Scots. After Nick Edwards was pulled into touch, Hawley was right there to get in the way on the Scottish quick throw-in. As a result, the ball didn't go five meters, and the Eagles got a free kick. Folau Niua tapped and ghosted through a gap before feeding Edwards, who took the angle and scored a key try.
Up 17-0 the USA now had to just not do anything silly. Despite not having many subs, the Americans clearly were finishing the stronger, perhaps the strongest finish for them all season.
The hooter sounded with the Eagles testing for another try. Luke Hume was tackled, and Edwards gratefully kicked the ball into touch.
Thus ended a surprising and exciting Tokyo 7s for the USA. In the end, Zack Test was an inspiration, and Shalom Suniula produced many key conversion kicks and some smart plays. Edwards, Durutalo, Hume, Palefau, the injured Hawkins and concussed Isles, Halalilo, and Thompson all did their jobs.
But two players stood out. Colin Hawley made several immense tackles, and some key offensive moves, and Folau Niua showed much more of the magic he is capable of. Still battling leg woes, Niua, tested defenses, made smart decisions, and, like everyone else on the team, made his tackles.
This was the first USA Plate Championship since 2001, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"We've been working very hard all season to keep composure, keep the ball, play very good defense, and we came out and executed today," said Test, who reclaimed his reputation as a restart specialist, and led a vastly improved performance at the rucks. "We showed we wanted to hustle for each other."
And they did it without their fastest player, or their captain, available in the final game.
Tries: Durutalo, Suniula, Edwards
The victory means the USA is now tied with Scotland with 46 points in the World Series, and have put some significant distance between them and Portugal and Spain. But the Eagles and Scotland are now tied at 12th. The top 12 are guaranteed a return to core status. So it's a simple task for Glasgow - do better than Scotland.
USA Results at HSBC Men 7s World Series Tokyo
USA 24-22 Wales
USA 10-21 Kenya
USA 12-12 Scotland
Cup QF: New Zealand 19-12 USA
Plate SF: USA 21-19 Fiji
Plate Final: USA 17-0 Scotland