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The USA men's 7s team began the Nelson Mandela Bay 7s in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with a little bit of fight, but not enough execution as they lost their opening match 26-10 to Wales.
Eagles Head Coach Matt Hawkins threw in a couple of surprises as he started Carlin Isles, and also started Arkansas State product Zac Mizell. But in the end, perhaps a bigger surprise was his decision not to go to his bigger players, Nu'u Punimata and Miles Craigwell, later.
The USA got the ball off their kickoff and went wide quickly, but Andrew Durutalo lost the ball forward in the tackle.
Durutalo recovered to make a tap tackle to halt Wales's attack and then dragged the next man into touch. But with that possession didn't really go anywhere because the Eagles kept passing behind each other.
Still, three minutes in Zack Test made a half break and dished to Isles. The USA wing looked to have the angle on his opposite, but pulled out and passed back to Test - the pass was behind him and while Test kept the ball moving Brett Thompson's pass to Durutalo was poor as well and Wales got the ball back.
Wales got plenty of attacking opportunities after that, and the Eagles had to know that with referee Fedrico Anselmi handling the match, they weren't going to get any favors.
Anselmi actually made material assistance to Wales as he was in the way when Test needed to make a tackle, allowing James Davies to cut through an inside channel to score from 25 meters out.
Wales scored right after that, patiently moving the ball from side to side, sucking in the USA defenders, and sending it out to an unmarked Ashley Evans for a try.
With time up in the first half Wales kicked the restart out on the full. Folau Niua got the team moving forward with the free kick, and then a penalty tap, but the American clearout in the ruck was not up to snuff and they turned the ball over.
At halftime, Test admonished his teammates not to wait and set a ruck if the ball is there to be picked up. That advice proved to be good advice.
The USA gifted Wales a try at the start of the second half. They had the ball in hand on the kickoff, but fumbled it, and once Davies got the ball he pushed aside Pono Haitsuka and ran in next to the posts.
Getting the ball back Thompson started the Eagles going forward and linked with Edwards. After a ruck where Wales were guilty of killing the ball. Quick ball, including the quick pickup Test had asked for, and out to the backs and a grubber kick saw Test and two Welsh defenders all fall over as they tried to get to the ball, which rolled in-goal for Stephen Tomasin to fall onto for the try.
From the restart, the Eagles tackled Wales behind the gainline, rucked over, and sent the ball wide to Thompson, who bulled his way over to make it 19-10.
The USA looked a little better, but scoring out wide meant no conversions. The Eagles got another shot, when a half-break from Durutalo and offload to Test got Thompson going again, as Test passed quickly to his teammate. But Thompson was just caught before the line.
That was the crucial potential score, as the Eagles would have had enough time to overcome the deficit.
But the USA was far too weak at the point of contact against a much bigger Welsh team. The smaller USA players struggled to make solid tackles, and at the ruck they needed to clear out, but were more often knocked backward.
Davies scored once more with time up after a long series bashing at the USA line to make it 26-10 over a USA team that must rue the soft tries they gave up in the first half, and a missed chance with Isles on the gallop.
Tries: Tomasin, Thompson
USA Starters: Isles, Edwards, Durutalo, Test, Thompson, Niua, Mizell
Subs used: Blair, Haitsuka, Tomasin
Tries: Davies 3, Evans
Convs: Jones 3