Eagles steamroll Portugal, reach Tokyo Sevens Bowl Semifinals
TOKYO – Mataiyasi Leuta’s first World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series try capped a seven-try, 39-0, Tokyo Sevens Bowl Quarterfinal victory for the Men’s Eagles Sevens against Portugal Sunday.
Eagles Head Coach Mike Friday was able to empty his bench in the win, which featured the return of Folau Niua. Niua missed the third day of Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens a week ago and Saturday’s action at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium with a six-match disciplinary ban.
With the freshest legs on the pitch, Niua opened the scoring in the second minute of the match. The Eagles gained possession on the kickoff and made it to midfield before losing the ball into touch. The defensive line pushed Portugal towards its own try line, where it relieved the pressure with a clearance kick.
Niua fooled his opposite number at the 10 with a dummy and ran 60 meters for a try between the sticks. He kicked his own conversion for the 7-0 lead.
Maka Unufe gave his team possession by jumping for Niua’s restart and knocking it to Garrett Bender. Niua made another dummy before being tackled outside the try line, but Bender was there to win the ruck. Physically dominant, Bender spun away from the ruck with the ball and reached over to dot down the ball in-goal.
Bender was instrumental in extending the Eagles’ 12-0 lead in the fifth minute after the U.S. won the restart. The try-scorer passed the 10 before finding Danny Barrett along the touch line, where Barrett lowered his shoulder into Diogo Mateus. With the pitch wet from the falling rain, Barrett slid into the try zone to put the Eagles’ lead at 17-0.
Portugal failed to use its short time with the ball in the final minute of the half, with a handling error giving the U.S. possession. A patient attack from Friday’s starting seven drew multiple penalties and eventually a yellow card. Niua and Unufe set up a calculated play with the quick tap to create space on the wing for Madison Hughes, who did not have to run far to score.
The Eagles kept up the energy through the break but committed a few penalties in the opening minute of the second half, though Portugal lost the ball in its own lineout. Following another change of possession, the Eagles drew a penalty and Barrett took on two defenders at midfield, where he found two options for the offload in Carlin Isles and Unufe. Unufe accepted the pass and ran away from the defenders to extend the lead to 29-0.
Nate Augspurger, Perry Baker, Andrew Durutalo, Nick Edwards, and Leuta each entered the match in the second half to help maintain the intensity. Augspurger shook off the rust with a run down the touch line in the final minute. The substitute kept out of two tackles before spinning a pass behind his back to Durutalo, who dove over the try line for the Eagles’ sixth try.
With just seconds left on the clock, the Eagles restarted play with the kick from midfield. Leuta ran underneath the ball, stripped it from an attacker, broke one tackle, and fended another defender to score his first career try and bring the final score to 39-0.
Samoa defeated Hong Kong in the Bowl Quarterfinals to set up the Semifinal matchup. The Eagles previously faced Samoa in the Cup Quarterfinal in Hong Kong, a loss for the U.S.
Watch the Eagles in the Bowl Semifinal at 1:16 a.m. ET Sunday on Universal Sports, and follow live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | v. Portugal
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. Nate Augspurger
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Mataiyasi Leuta
Portugal | v. USA
1. David Mateus
2. Benardo Cardoso
3. Joao Belo
4. Pedro Leal
5. Diogo Miranda
6. Carl Murray
7. Francisco Sousa
8. Diogo Mateus
9. Nuno Guedes
10. Duarte Moreira
11. Jose Vareta
12. Joao Vaz Antunes
Men’s Eagles Sevens | 39
Tries: Niua, Bender, Barrett, Hughes, Unufe, Durutalo, Leuta
Conversions: Niua, Hughes
Portugal | 0
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Tokyo Sevens
v Kenya – L 27-5
v Canada – W 22-14
v South Africa – L 24-15
Bowl QF v Portugal – W 39-0
Bowl SF v Samoa – Sunday, April 5 – 1:16 a.m. ET