Quick Reaction: USA through to quarterfinals after day one at Glasgow Sevens

GLASGLOW, Scotland – The Glasglow Sevens didn’t start the way Head Coach Mike Friday would have wanted, but ended on a positive note. In the opening match of the tournament, the Eagles took on their rivals north of the border, Canada. Followed by two matches against Japan and Argentina, respectively.

Struggles early on

Only a month away from the Olympic qualifying NACRA Sevens, the Eagles looked to continue their recent success against Canada. In the first match, however, it appeared that only Canada was ready to play.

After receiving the opening kick, Canada held onto the ball for nearly three minutes of the opening half eventually scoring on a Ciaran Hearn try to take a 7-0 lead. From then on, it seemed like Canada would never relinquish possession. Following multiple Eagles turnovers, Canada ended the half with a 21-0 lead.

The Eagles couldn’t stop the bleeding in the second half, either. It wasn’t until half way through the second half that the Eagles had their best possession, ultimately turning the ball over after a penalty. Canada ended the match with trys by Mike Fauilefau, Adam Saruba and Liam Underwood.

Final score: Canada 40, USA 0

Lineup: Danny Barrett
, Zach Test, Andrew Durutalo, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Madison Hughes

Finding their groove

Despite only change to the lineup, the Eagles were a completely different team in their second match of the day, a 38-7 win against Japan. Stout on defense and aggressive on offense, the Eagles came out firing on all cylinders against a Japan team that drew a 12-12 draw against Argentina earlier in the day.

Plagued by turnovers in their first match, the Eagles found their groove in the second match on offense. Madison Hughes opened the scoring with a highlight reel run following a perfectly timed Danny Barret pass. It wasn’t long after that Zach Test scored his 120th career try and the Eagles ended the half up 19-0.

It was more of the same in the second half with trys by Test, Maka Unufe and Matai Leuta. Japan would get on the board themselves after the Eagles kicked away possession.

When the final whistle blew, it was the Eagles who were on top after a dominating performance that kept their quarterfinal hopes alive. Afterward, Coach Friday spoke to reporters saying, “Our destiny is still in our hands.”

Final score: USA 38, Japan 7

Lineup: Danny Barrett, Zach Test, Andrew Durutalo, Perry Baker, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Madison Hughes

A nailbiter until the end

In their final match of the day, the Eagles found themselves going up against Los Pumas of Argentina. In what was largely a back-and-forth match that saw both sides rarely leave their own halves, it was the Eagles who started the scoring.

Perry Baker showed why many consider him the fastest man in rugby, bursting through the touchline on his way to a try. Then, it was Maka Unufe who upped the Eagles lead at the end of the first half with a try of his own giving the Eagles a 14-0 advantage.

Unufe did it again to open the second half, scoring his second try of the game and giving the Eagles a 21-0 lead. While Unufe scored the try, it was the heads-up play of Madison Hughes who made it all possible. Hughes, who had been strong all day, seemed to make every pass for the Eagles when needed.

Things took a turn later in the second half, however, as the Argentine offense woke up and put the Eagles on their heels. Segundo Tuculet scored twice for the Pumas cutting the Eagles lead to 7. With only a minute left, the Eagles turned the ball over and the Argentines made one final push.

Looking as if they would tie the match before the final whistle, the Argentines were stopped by a penalty. The Eagles would go on to seal their victory after taking the game’s final line out and holding possession.

The Eagles will now move on to the Quarterfinals starting Sunday, May 10. All Glasglow Sevens matches can be seen tomorrow on NBC Universal Sports.

Final score: USA 21, Argentina 7

Lineup: Danny Barrett, Zach Test, Andrew Durutalo, Perry Baker, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Madison Hughes