Gritty, valiant, not enough: USA Rugby edged by World No. 1 Fiji

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
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The United States men’s rugby sevens team entered Wednesday’s Pool A finale against No. 1 ranked Fiji knowing they’d need a shock win, draw or loss by fewer than four to advance to the knockout rounds of the Olympics.

They lost by five.

Tries from Danny Barrett, Perry Baker, and New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner helped the Yanks to a valiant effort, but a late conversion attempt from an acute angle struck the goal post in a 24-19 loss.

USA went ahead through Danny Barrett, who combined grit and agility in racing through the Fiji defense for a try. Madison Hughes converted to make it 7-0.

But Fiji scooped a loose ball moments later to help even the score. Osea Kolinisau had the try and the conversion. 7-7.

Fiji took a yellow card at halftime, but scored down a man through Vatemo Ravouvou. 12-7 Fiji at the break.

The second half saw the Yanks fire out of the gates, with Perry Baker adding a try with another Hughes conversion to make it 14-12. But again, powerful Fiji countered quickly to go up through Kolinisau, who added a conversion to make it 19-14.

Semi Kunatani then got a try to make the advantage 10 with 90 seconds to play. The U.S. would need a try and conversion to go through. They got the try through Ebner, but the conversion hit the goal post.

The Americans showed well despite losing to Argentina in the first match before flattening Brazil in their second appearance.

South Africa, France, Great Britain, Fiji, Argentina, and Japan advanced as top two seeds in their groups. Australia and New Zealand are the two third-placed teams.

The U.S. will now compete in the ninth – twelfth place playoff.