Perry Baker breaks away to score a try during the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series match against Wales on May 28, 2022 in London.
Sandwiching wins against South Africa and Canada around a loss to New Zealand in pool play Saturday, the U.S. earned a berth in the quarterfinals of the LA Sevens, the final event of this year’s World Rugby Seven Series.
The U.S., which is seeking its first medal finish since a runner-up finish in the season opener at Dubai, will play in the quarterfinals at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The semifinal round begins at 2:51 ET. The title game is at 8:28 p.m.
Opening Saturday against World Rugby Sevens Series points leader and recent Commonwealth Games gold medalist South Africa, the U.S., ranked No. 6, sent an immediate message to the rest of the field with a stunning 21-7 victory in its first match on home turf in more than two years.
On a hot morning at Dignity Health Sports Park, the U.S. got off to a sizzling start when David Still broke away on a long run for the game’s initial try. Lucas Lacamp added the first of his three conversions in the game to make it 7-0.
Joe Schroeder added another try and Lacamp converted again to present Team USA with a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Americans kept up the pressure after the break, and when Perry Baker broke free early in the second half from midfield, the U.S. had a third try. Lacamp added the conversion to extend the advantage to 21-0.
South Africa, which won the first four tournaments this season, finally got on the scoreboard on a try from Sakoyisa Makata and the conversion by Shaun Williams late in the second half. The U.S. continued its stout defensive play and hung on for the win.
The next pool play result against defending World Cup champion and recent Commonwealth Games bronze medalist New Zealand — ninth in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings — was unsatisfying for the Americans.
After the U.S. was awarded a penalty try when captain Stephen Tomasin was tackled short of the try line, the contest stood at 7-7 in the opening half. New Zealand looked to be playing downhill the rest of the way, however.
The All Blacks racked up 26 unanswered points before Perry Baker scored a try by gathering in his own forward kick and crossing the line. New Zealand went on for a 33-12 win.
Five different players had tries for New Zealand. The All Blacks also got four conversions from Akuila Rokolisoa, who added one of the tries.
The U.S. defeated Canada in its final pool-play match, 26-17. The Americans came back from a 5-0 deficit, using tries by Still, Schroeder, Maceo Brown and Malacchi Esdale.
In a TV interview after the last match, Schroeder gave credit to the support by U.S. fans.
“We feel them when we’re out there,” said Schroeder, a 2020 Olympian, “that’s for sure.”