The United States Eagles sevens rugby team ended the first round of the 2010-2011 IRB World Sevens Series rugby tournament with their heads held high in Dubai this weekend. After going 2-1 in pool play the first day in the desert kingdom, the Eagles went into day two expecting a little more than they showed against some stiff competition – ending the day 0-2. When the team left Dubai, they walked away with six points for the eight-tournament World Sevens Series, which moves on to South Africa next weekend.
The Eagles started the first day of tournament play in Pool B, facing off against Zimbabwe, Argentina and World Sevens Series champion favorites New Zealand. By the end of the day the U.S. team finished Pool Play qualified for the Cup Championship (one of the trophies for teams in Pool Play that did not finish in first place) with a respectable 2-1 – beating Zimbabwe 28-12, and Argentina 24-19, and losing to New Zealand 31-7.
On Saturday the Eagles started the Cup Quarterfinals against a motivated Samoan sevens squad (also last year’s World Sevens Series champions) – this is where the wheels unfortunately started to come off of the bus, so to speak. Team USA was unable to contain the former champion’s style of power rugby and the Samoans ran over the Eagles to the tune of 38-5, bumping the Eagles down into the tournament’s Plate competition. Team USA will see Samoa again in South Africa’s Pool B next weekend.
After the loss to Samoa, Caravelli informed the team that he had seen less than he expected based on the previous day’s matches.
“We really didn’t play well in the first of two games and I told them a performance such as that against Samoa was not acceptable; they needed to be more physical. Although Samoa had raised their game, we had brought ours down,” Caravelli said.
In the Plate tournament’s semi-final match, the U.S. squared off with South Africa, fresh off of a 21-19 loss to Fiji, always one of the most exciting teams in any sevens tournament. The South Africans hammered the final nail in the Eagles tournament coffin, beating the U.S. 24-10.
Former Miami Dolphins defensive back Miles Craigwell, making his first tournament start for the Eagles Sevens team, scored a great try in Dubai. According to U.S. coach Al Caravelli, “(Craigwell) made three great tackles against South Africa and showed that some of the football skills can be of great use in rugby.”
Craigwell joins Kyle Marshall, Zach Test and Nu’ese Punimata as former American Football players who have recently converted to rugby (although while at the University of Oregon, Test played wide receiver for the Ducks, and played rugby for the University of Oregon team).