WELLINGTON, New Zealand – After beating Series-leading South Africa in its first match at Wellington Sevens, France fell flat against the Men’s Eagles Sevens in a 38-7 win for Mike Friday’s side.
Zack Test dotted down twice for the Eagles, who received another fantastic kicking performance from captain Madison Hughes to keep a sizable lead atop Pool A after the second round of matches at Westpac Stadium.
“It all comes from Coach Friday,” Test said after the match. “We keep each other accountable and stick to the system.”
Beating Japan, 40-5, in their first match, the Eagles picked up where they left off early on against France. After holding France’s first attack at bay with a big stop on Virimi Vakatawa, Folau Niua switched the Eagles’ go-forward to Andrew Durutalo. With a big run from midfield to France’s 22, Durutalo sent the ball to Test to finish off the scoring play.
The Eagles stayed hungry after losing the ensuing restart. Durutalo won possession in the tackle in France’s half and Perry Baker – starting in place of Carlin Isles – passed a quick ball to an onrushing Danny Barrett for the second try in as many minutes for a 10-0 lead.
France had its chance to respond in the fifth minute and nearly scored, but a pass back to a teammate a few meters from the try line betrayed Les Blues and found the slick hands of Niua.
France regained the ball following the scrum, but Baker used his lengthy wingspan to tip Vakatawa’s pass to himself inside the Eagles’ 22. Maka Unufe received the ball and found the speedster calling for it on the wing for Baker’s second try of the tournament. He dotted down under the sticks to set up Hughes’ first successful conversion of the match, giving the Eagles a 17-0 lead.
Hughes was the next Eagle to intercept a loose pass from the French, and it came in a dangerous position: underneath the uprights. He kicked the conversion for a 24-0 halftime lead.
Friday was pleased with his team’s effort in the first seven minutes, but the match was far from over. France struck first in the second half through Renauld Delmas, making the score 24-7.
The Eagles went back on the front foot, however, with Test scoring his second try of the match in the 10th minute. Martin Iosefo and Baker combined to move the Eagles within striking distance on the wing, and a loose ball popped to the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer. Test made a move between two defenders and fended off the final Frenchman to get over the line.
Up, 31-7, in the 11th minute, Garrett Bender entered the fray and used his aerial ability to knock Niua’s restart back to a teammate. Hughes flung the ball to Niua in the middle of the pitch and a patented dummy preceded the Eagles’ final try of the match.
France looked poised to snatch a late try without an Eagle sweeper back to defend inside the 22, but Isles tracked back to take down the wannabe gloryman. He left the field with an apparent injury before the final whistle blew.
The 38-7 victory keeps the Eagles in prime position in the pool heading into their final match against South Africa. The Blitzbokke earned their first win of Wellington Sevens against Japan, 24-7, but still trail the Eagles in the pool with the U.S. holding a superior, plus-66 point differential.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | v France
1. Carlin Isles
2. Nic Edwards
3. Danny Barrett
4. Garrett Bender
5. Zack Test
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Ahmad Harajly
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo
France | v USA
1. Jonathan Laugel
2. Manoel Dall Igna
3. Bryan Dimeck
4. Terry Bouhraoua
5. Paul Albaladejo
6. Steeve Barry
7. Virimi Vakatawa
8. Pierre Gilles Lakafia
9. Stephen Parez
10. Julien Candelon
11. Jean Baptiste Gobelet
12. Renaud Delmas
Men’s Eagles Sevens | 38
Tries: Test (2), Barrett, Baker, Hughes, Niua
Conversions: Hughes (4)
France | 7
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Wellington Sevens
v Japan – W 40-5
v France – W 38-7
v South Africa – Friday, February 6 – 12:10 a.m. ET