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The USA was defeated by an ever-improving Hong Kong team 20-12 Sunday in the Bowl semifinals of the Hong Kong 7s, in a game the Eagles probably should have won at a canter.
Zack Test was taken out of the previous game with an injury. He returned to start in this game, but on the wing, not as a hooker, with Nick Edwards stepping in as a forward, indicating he might have hurt his shoulder.
USA won the restart and kicked for position, clearly wanting to make the field longer for Hong Kong. It worked, as the throw-in from Hong Kong was not straight, giving the Eagles a scrum on the Hong Kong 22.
Test knocked forward a pass on the wing, but the USA still put on the pressure and it was a tackle from Test that forced a dropped ball that Mike Palefau picked up and dragged over for a try.
But Hong Kong got it right back. With Test going up high for the restart, the problem is, if he doesn't win it, he's on the ground and out of the play. Hong Kong won the restart and were away down the sideline. Nick Edwards made a tap tackle, but the support was there from Tom McQueen and quickly it was 5-5.
The Eagles received the restart, but quickly lost it as they were sloppy with the ball out of the ruck. Hong Kong stormed onto the ball, took the ball back and spun it quickly out to McQueen for the try and a 10-5 Hong Kong lead.
Now with less than a minute to go the Eagles took the deep restart and sent it wide to Test - exactly the sort of pass Carlin Isles had been waiting for. Test had a lot of work to do but went on a weaving, powerful run from inside his own 22 that went from one side of the field almost to the other. A brilliant try for the American, and with Shalom Suniula's conversion, they went into halftime 12-10.
The second half started with the USA giving up unnecessary penalties. One was for coming in from the side, and the other was for offside. In the end, McQueen got the ball on the wing and ran in for his third. 15-12 Hong Kong led.
Again the Eagles could not control the restart. They knocked the ball back, but no one was there to nab the ball, and Hong Kong was just more urgent and Kwok Ka Chun went in.
After that, it fell apart. Alex Magleby sent in the subs, but they kept giving up penalties, the last being Luke Hume not releasing in a tackle where he felt he wasn't held.
And when they finally sent the ball to Carlin Isles, it was telegraphed, and he had no room at all. Hong Kong looked more aggressive, and the USA just seemed to hit a wall.
All in all, though, while they wanted more points for the World Series, Sunday has been good news for the USA. The teams close to them that made the top eight all lost in the quarterfinals, and Scotland and Spain are in the Shield bracket. Now if the Eagles can just start winning restarts and getting out of penalty trouble, they might do something in Tokyo.
Tries: Palefau, Test
USA Starters: Hawkins, Edwards, Durutalo, Suniula, Niua, Palefau, Test
Hong Kong 20
Tries: McQueen 3, Ka Chun