The men's and women's rugby sevens team pose for a photo with their medals at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
LIMA, Peru – Coming off their most successful seasons in team history, the U.S. rugby squads added two more accomplishments to their growing list: the women claimed its second straight Pan American Games silver medal after falling to rival Canada, 24-10, and the men’s squad secured bronze after besting Brazil, 24-19.
The USA Women’s Eagles Sevens completed a full sweep in pool play – including three shutout wins – going into the elimination rounds, making the loss to Canada their sole one at the Games.
“We’ve been trying to have the same mentality for every game, but obviously it’s a different caliber of team, so it’s a little harder,” Jordan Matyas said. “These past few games, we hadn’t been tested in our defense as much, so it just kind of translated into this game.”
Within the first minute, Canada put points on the board. The U.S. responded with Ilona Maher and Kayla Canett combining to level the score to 7-5. After that, Canada started rolling.
Down 24-5 with two minutes remaining, Maher rallied to add another try for the U.S., but despite the squad’s grit and determination, the final whistle blew before the Americans could finish the comeback they began to mount.
The women's rugby sevens team celebrates on the podium at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
The U.S. left the game with its head held high. The women’s team sees it as a beneficial building block as part of their path to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“It was a really great opportunity to test our mettle and see where we’re at – giving us a lot to work on moving forward,” Cheta Emba said. “We’re going to keep building from this and celebrate what we did this weekend, but then get back to the workshop and get to work.”
The U.S. men’s squad overcame Brazil, 24-19, led by 10 points and two tries from Harley Wheeler, in an exhilarating bronze-medal match earlier in the afternoon.
The key theme of that match was tenacity.
“The boys battled through adversity on and off the pitch and showed heart and resilience to pull out the bronze medal,” head coach J.D. Stephenson said.
Wheeler made a clean break to score the first points of the match to which Brazil responded by scoring three of their own. The grit of the U.S. shined through as Wheeler and Travion Clark added back-to-back tries to level the score at 19 as the final minute ran out, marking the necessity for a sudden death period.
As the match went into extra time, the stands were filled with fans from both sides chanting their country’s name loudly, shouting and sighing in unison with each close call.
The two countries duked it out until Marcus Tupuola plowed through the field, running through a tight space to soar across the line to give the U.S. the victory. Tupuola was met with roaring cheers from the crowd as well as the rest of his team as they rushed to embrace him and celebrate the victory.