LONDON – The Men’s Eagles Sevens defeated South Africa in their final pool match at Marriott London Sevens Saturday to finish day one atop Pool D with a perfect, 3-0 record.
Mike Friday’s team will face Canada in the Cup Quarterfinals at Twickenham Stadium Sunday at 6:12 a.m. ET, the U.S.’s sixth Cup Quarterfinal of the nine-stop, 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series.
The U.S. kicked off against France in their first match Saturday, a 24-19 win that could have resulted in a more positive point differential for the Eagles. Carlin Isles scored a patented try in the third minute to open the scoring after Andrew Durutalo won the ball for his teammates and Maka Unufe scored the U.S.’s second less than two minutes later for a 12-0 lead.
Garrett Bender caught Folau Niua’s restart following Unufe’s try to reach the 22, where he hit Madison Hughes with an offload for a 17-0 lead at the half. Julien Candelon dotted down for France in the second minute of the second frame after a penalty against the Eagles mere meters from the try line to cut the deficit to 17-7.
The ball popped out of the ruck five meters from the Eagles’ try line and Jonathan Laugel handed it off to Stephen Parez for a 17-14 score line after 11 minutes. The U.S. captain ended France’s comeback hopes with a supporting run behind Durutalo on the wing to extend the lead to 24-14, and Candelon scored one more before the 14 minutes were up to bring the final score to 24-19.
Knowing South Africa would likely bring two wins into its matchup with the Eagles in the final pool play matchup, the Eagles looked to get off to a quick start against Portugal. The U.S. won a lineout on their own five-meter line and Perry Baker took the ball 100 meters from try line to try line, untouched, to score.
The captain made a crucial backcheck in the sixth minute to stop a try, but Diogo Miranda dotted down in the final minute of the half after taking advantage of Matai Leuta’s slip on the defensive line.
Nuno Geudes broke the halftime, 7-7, deadlock in the opening minute following the break after a few penalties allowed Portugal territory deep inside the Eagles’ half. In the 10th minute, Danny Barrett and Garrett Bender each stormed up the pitch to get the U.S. to the 22 and the ball came back to Barrett for the try and 14-12 lead.
A 13th-minute penalty gave the Eagles an opportunity to set up a set play, and Unufe was able to reach the try line without a hand from a defender to extend the lead. Martin Iosefo put a step on a defender after the Eagles won the restart and found Hughes in support to cap the 28-12 win.
With both teams qualified for the Cup Quarterfinals with two wins from two matches, the U.S. and South Africa met with seeding on the line. The pool-topper would play the No. 2 team in Pool A, either Canada or Fiji, with Fiji seeking maximum points to stay ahead of South Africa in the Series standings.
Baker proved who the fastest man on the pitch was in the second minute of the match when he chased down Seabelo Senatla to make the tackle before the Series-leading try-scorer could reach the try line. The Eagles were penalized after a lineout in their own half and conceded the opening try to Stephan Dippenaar to fall behind at 5-0.
Baker stopped another scoring opportunity for South Africa, but his opponent got the ball back from a lineout and Werner Kock dotted down to extend South Africa’s lead to 12-0.
Though the Eagles did not find the try zone in the first seven minutes, they were able to take an advantage into the second half with Kyle Brown shown a yellow card for an infraction in the breakdown with Hughes.
A set play on the quick tap in the eighth minute created space for Unufe to exploit before the Eagles moved it to the right to Barrett. In the tackle, Barrett got an offload out to Bender for the team’s first try.
On the other side of the restart, Hughes won the ball back for the Eagles and Baker ran nearly the length of the pitch again to give the Eagles a 14-12 lead as Brown’s sinning expired.
Bender cut out a scoring opportunity by chasing a chip kick in-goal, where Dippenaar was deemed to have knocked the ball forward. A minute later, Durutalo won the ball for the Eagles and Isles grabbed the ball from a ruck five meters from the try line to dot down and bring the final score to 21-12.
The win sets up a Cup Quarterfinal matchup with Canada, which is scheduled to kick off at 6:12 a.m. ET Sunday. Watch Marriott London Sevens live on Universal Sports and follow match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Marriott London Sevens
1. Carlin Isles
2. Mataiyasi Leuta
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Marriott London Sevens
v France – W 24-19
v Portugal – W 28-12
v South Africa – W 21-12
Cup Quarterfinal v Canada – Sunday, May 17 – 6:12 a.m. ET