By Blythe Lawrence | Feb. 03, 2019, 10:15 a.m. (ET)

The U.S. men's rugby sevens team pose with their silver medals at the Sydney Sevens Series on Feb. 3, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

 

Before facing off with New Zealand in Sunday’s Sydney Sevens men’s final, U.S. men’s rugby captain Madison Hughes predicted that possession would be the key to victory — and he didn’t think it would be easy. 

“It’s just going to be another 20-minute tussle,” Hughes said before the match. “We know it’s going to be a really tough test. We’re just going to have to try to keep doing what’s given us success so far and limit our errors in the match.”

Try as it might, the U.S. was simply unable to get around the mighty All Blacks in a final played out in brilliant sunshine Sunday in Australia’s largest city. Superb tries from Regan Ware, Sam Dickson and Iukarisitone James Ng Shiu on the quick and well-prepared Kiwi side quickly made the score 21-0. The United States was able to get some help in the form of a try from Brett Thompson, but New Zealand prevailed 21-5 to take the gold medal.

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It was the fourth silver medal in as many tournaments this season for the Americans.

After opening the tournament with wins against France, Kenya and Canada in pool play, the U.S. toppled Spain 38-10 in the quarterfinals. Pitted against a strong England side in the semis, Hughes and his teammates prevailed 14-7 to earn the privilege of facing the All Blacks for the title. 

“They made us work for it, but we were lucky enough in that one to come out on top,” Hughes said of the team’s entry into the final. For its part, New Zealand crested into the final on a high after upsetting an incredible-looking side from Fiji 36-14.

After four of 10 tournaments that will determine which teams qualify to the Summer Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the United States currently sits tied with New Zealand for first in the standings. The top four teams will automatically qualify to Tokyo.

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.