Stephen Tomasin runs down the pitch during the first pool play game against South Africa at the 2022 HBSC LA Rugby Sevens on Aug. 27, 2022 in Los Angeles.
Following a strong day of pool play against tough opposition, the U.S. men’s sevens squad dropped its final two matches Sunday in the LA Sevens at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The Americans opened the season’s final World Rugby Sevens Series event, and the first on U.S. soil in 2½ years, with a strong showing on Saturday. Coming into the tournament ranked No. 6, the Eagles defeated top-ranked South Africa as well as Canada to move on to the knockout round.
Facing two-time defending Olympic champion Fiji in the quarterfinals, the Americans already faced a steep challenge. They played without 2020 Olympian Joe Schroeder, who injured an ankle during Saturday’s 26-17 win over Canada in pool play, and they lost two more players Sunday.
Fiji struck quickly. Kaminieli Rasaku’s try on Fiji’s first possession, and the subsequent conversion, gave “The Flying Fijians” an early 7-0 advantage.
On the ensuing kick, Joseva Talacolo leaped to grab the ball and raced in for another quick score to put Fiji up 14-0. Talacolo’s second try of the first half extended the lead to 21-0.
A try by U.S. captain Steve Tomasin just before halftime snapped the shutout and brought the Americans within 14 points.
As the second half opened, Maka Unufe of the U.S. took a pass from Perry Baker and charged across the try line to narrow the deficit to 21-12.
The already shorthanded Americans suffered another blow when Folau Niua crumbled to the turf with an apparent shoulder injury and had to leave the pitch.
Viwa Naduvalo came off the bench to score Fiji’s final try in a 28-12 victory.
Fiji went on to reach the final against New Zealand, which was set for Sunday night. The U.S., meanwhile, moved on to a fifth-place semifinal against a strong Kenya team but lost by the score of 21-14.
The home crowd got behind the Eagles early in the tightly played match. Kenya finally broke through with the game’s first try in the ninth minute when Alvin Otieno made a powerful run down the left sideline. Daniel Taabu added the first of his three conversions for a 7-0 halftime lead.
In the early going after the break, the U.S. gained the automatic penalty try when a Kenya player intentionally knocked the ball out of the scoring area to prevent U.S. points. That tied it at 7-7.
With a penalty man-advantage for the U.S., Tomasin added a try on a pass from Baker to give the Americans a 14-7 edge.
Taabu scored a try on a counterattack and made his own conversion to tie it once again at 14-14.
The U.S. bench got shorter still when Tomasin hobbled off the pitch shortly thereafter. Edmund Anya of Kenya put the U.S. out of the tournament with a Kenya try that ended it at 21-14.