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July 29, 2014

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USA misses championship bracket in Las Vegas rugby tournament

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Isaac Brekken / AP

The United States’ Nick Edwards carries the ball during a USA Sevens World Series rugby tournament match versus Fiji, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, in Las Vegas.

USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament

South Africa's Cecil Afrika passes as he is taken down by Canada's Philip Mack during the USA Sevens World Series rugby tournament, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Rugby terms to know

  • Stoppages: Play is stopped only when there is a rule violation, when the ball goes out of bounds or when there is a score.
  • Handling the ball: The ball can be passed laterally or backward, or kicked in any direction at any time during play. Throwing or dropping the ball in a forward direction is illegal.
  • Rucks: A ruck occurs after a tackle is made. Both teams converge over the ball and attempt to push the opposition off it.
  • Scrums: A scrum is a method of restarting play following a minor rule violation (such as a forward pass). Three players from both teams bind together and line up in front of the opposition. A member of the non-offending team places the ball in between the players and each team pushes against each other until possession is established.
  • Tries: A try is achieved by touching the ball down in the opposition's in-goal area (similar to a touchdown) and is worth 5 points. A try is then followed by a conversion, which is a drop-kick at goal worth 2 points.
  • After 24 matches and nine hours of play, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and England emerged on top of the first day of the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament at Sam Boyd Stadium.

    The USA team did not make the tournament’s top championship bracket, going 1-2 and barely falling short of an upset against eventual Pool B winners, Fiji.

    “We should have beat Fiji. We had an opportunity to,” said USA sevens captain Kevin Swiryn. “They’re a great team. You don’t come close without playing really well.”

    Swiryn’s team dominated possession in the game’s opening half and got an early 12-point lead, thanks to tries from Marco Barnard and Matt Hawkins.

    “Fiji never saw the ball in the first half, so we were thrilled that we managed to control the tempo of the game,” said USA coach Al Caravelli. “That’s what we set out to do.”

    Fiji, however, showed its ability to score from anywhere on the field when Emosi Vucago intercepted a misjudged forward pass near his own goal line and ran the length of the field for a converted try, making the score 12-7.

    “Against a quality side like Fiji, if you make mistakes they punish you,” Caravelli said. “We only made two mistakes in that game and that cost us the game.”

    Seremaia Bouroutu would score the game-winning converted try with a break from midfield. It looked as if Barnard could have made a try-saving tackle until the referee got in his way.

    “The referee came into my defensive line and it broke my speed completely. I was lucky to keep my feet,” Barnard said. “In most cases when a ref goes down because of a player, it’s an automatic scrum. That would have changed the outcome of the game, so it’s pretty demoralizing.”

    The USA finished the day with a 33-12 loss to South Africa and a 26-5 win over rival Canada highlighted by a try from Bennie Brazell’s in his international sevens debut.

    “It’s easy,” said Brazell. “It’s like football. You get the ball and run with it.”

    The USA now goes on to play Guyana in the tournament’s Bowl and Shield consolation bracket on Day 2.

    Pool A

    New Zealand scored 14 tries and conceded only three on their way to beating France 31-12, Guyana 49-0 and Australia 12-7 to sweep Pool A.

    Australia, however, appeared to be on the verge of stealing the pool with a comeback win over New Zealand.

    “You can’t write off any team in Sevens,” said New Zealand captain DJ Forbes. “Right until the last second there’s always a chance to score.”

    Clinton Sills crossed the try line with the score at 12-7 and no time left on the clock in the Pool’s deciding game. But the pass leading to Sills’ near-try was ruled forward.

    “If that pass went to hand, you never know what could have happened,” said Australia’s Ed Quirk. “Hopefully it would have been seven points and we would have had a better day tomorrow.”

    Guayana, in its first World Sevens Series tournament, drew with France 12-12 to give both teams a 0-2-1 record.

    New Zealand will face Pool B second-seed South Africa in the tournament quarterfinals, while Australia will have a quarterfinal matchup against Pool B winner Fiji.

    Pool B

    Fiji made the most tackles of the day thanks, in part, to a heroic defensive effort in a 12-5 win over South Africa in the Pool B decider.

    The victory gave Fiji a sweep of the division after its near-upset against the USA and a 26-12 win over Canada.

    South Africa, however, is still in the championship picture after a 33-0 domination of Canada and a blowout win against the USA.

    Pool C

    Samoa scored 15 tries — more than any other team in the tournament — on Day 1, thanks to a heroic effort by Mike Pesamino.

    Pesamino scored five tries in a 29-12 win over Chile and had a hat-trick during his team’s 41-12 rout of Scotland.

    The only team that could hold Pesamino in check was Kenya, but it was to no avail as they fell 7-19 in the pool decider.

    Kenya blew out Chile 33-7 and Scotland 17-0 to secure the pool’s second seed.

    Scotland got its only win of the day with a 26-10 victory over Chile.

    Samoa goes on to face Wales in the quarterfinals, while Kenya will face England.

    Pool D

    Hiraku Tomogiwa won Japan the upset of the day when his team defeated 2009 USA Sevens champions Argentina 7-0.

    Tomogiwa showcased his soccer skills by kicking the oval rugby ball behind the Argentinean defense and dribbling it for about 40 meters on his way to the game’s only try.

    It was a disappointing day for Argentina, which was in danger of losing every game until forcing a dramatic 12-all draw against eventual pool winner England in its last game.

    A 26-10 win against Wales and a 24-5 victory over Japan were enough to secure England the pool, but Wales was a close second with a 21-15 win over Argentina and a 22-5 win over Japan.

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