Jacob Lachina evades a tackle during match 28 on Day Two of The Madrid Rugby Sevens International Tournament at Universidad Complutense de Madrid on Feb. 21, 2021 in Madrid.
In their first competitive matches since the end of the 2019-20 World Rugby Sevens Series, both U.S. teams finished strong to place third in the first weekend of the Madrid Sevens tournament.
Organized by the Spanish rugby federation, the tournaments offer an opportunity for some of the world’s top rugby sevens teams to get some games in as they begin preparation for the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. All teams have either qualified for Tokyo — as is the case for the United States — or still have the opportunity to qualify.
As U.S. men’s head coach Mike Friday told USA Rugby after the first day of play, “All in all — it’s bloody great to be back on the pitch.”
First up on Sunday were the U.S. women, who got off to a fast start against Poland. The U.S. raced out to a 26-0 lead in the first half and never looked back, going on to win 47-7. National team newcomers Sui A’au and Nia Toliver each had two tries to lead the team.
It was the same margin of victory as when the teams met in their first match of the tournament, a 40-0 U.S. victory. The U.S. women got off to a 2-0 start before dropping matches to Russia and France, who finished 1-2 and contested the final. Despite those two losses, the U.S. women scored 178 points and allowed just 61.
The U.S. men were up next for their third-place match with Spain. The U.S. got off to a 12-0 lead only to see the hosts tie it up just before half. The teams then traded tries in the second half, but Spain missed its conversion. With time winding down, the U.S. gained possession and added a final try to put the game out of reach for a 24-17 final. Jake Lachina scored three tries for the scoring lead.
It was a much tighter match than when the teams met earlier in the tournament, a 35-5 win for the U.S. Much like the women, the men also got off to a 2-0 start before two losses, a close loss to Argentina and a 37-7 setback against Kenya. Kenya and Argentina met later Sunday for the title.
The teams will take the field again next weekend in Madrid to gain more valuable preparation time with the start of the Olympic tournament just over five months away. Both the men’s and women’s teams are qualified for Tokyo, and will look to improve upon their finishes from the Olympic debut of rugby sevens in 2016. The U.S. men finished ninth while the women finished just shy of the medal round in fifth.