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The USA Falcons finished their South American tour with a ninth-place finish in Vina del Mar, Chile. They went 0-2 to start pool play, losing to France, 33-7, and Uruguay, 17-12. Then they rebounded with three-straight wins, beating Colombia twice, 28-17 and 14-12, and Paraguay, 36-10.
It was a stark improvement from the 1-4 finish the week prior in Punta del Este, Uruguay. In that tournament, for which they arrived two days before kicking off, the Falcons scored nine tries. In Chile, they dotted down 15. Actually being able to train together for a meaningful amount of time seemed to be the difference.
“Cohesion can’t be underestimated,” said head coach JD Stephenson. “Having a team that can have a consistent training week kind of does wonders for us to be able to play to a structure and play to a resemblance of what Mike [Friday] and the Eagles are trying to get across. That definitely did help. And I think with the cohesion piece comes trust, so I think we were finding more trust with players that were at the training center and outside the training center and young guys, as well.
“The players realizing they actually could compete at this level, and that it wasn’t overwhelming to them, that was something really proud to see.”
Sam Walsh scored 32 points on the weekend from the halfback positions, proving a skilled conversion kicker and handy playmaker. And veteran Anthony Welmers was a source of consistency, always proving strong in defense and in the air.
Walsh headlined a quartet of talented young players to get a valuable taste of international rugby in South America. Naima Fualaau was one of the teenagers in the side, though he is already capped. His tour was cut short by an injury suffered in the second game of the first tournament. However, Walsh, Devon Short and Benny Broselle were fresh faces who banked big-time experience.
“The last game with Devon Short, Sam Walsh, Naima was injured, but Benny Broselle, there’s four 17-18-year-old guys that were within the starting seven,” said Stephenson. “It’s a good sign for our future.”
USA Men's Falcons Point Scorers | 2018 Viña del Mar Sevens
vs. France - 33-7 (L)
Tries: Connor Wallace-Sims
Conversions: Sam Walsh
vs. Uruguay - 17-12 (L)
Tries: Ben Broselle, Alex Elkins
Conversions: Sam Walsh
vs. Colombia - 28-17 (W)
Tries: Anthony Welmers, Sam Walsh, Devin Short, Zach Webber
Conversions: Sam Walsh (4)
vs. Paraguay - 36-10 (W)
Tries: Anthony Welmers, Anthony Salaber, Sam Walsh, Alex Elkins, Devin Short, Zach Webber
Conversions: Sam Walsh (3)
vs. Colombia - 14-12 (W)
Tries: Anthony Salaber, Nick Boyer
Conversions: Connor Wallace-Sims, Sam Walsh