Eagles finish Hong Kong Sevens with Plate Final loss

HONG KONG – The Men’s Eagles Sevens came within 15 meters of beating Australia in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Plate Final Sunday, but ultimately could not complete the comeback in a 21-17 loss.

Perry Baker scored what must be one of the tries of the tournament at Hong Kong Stadium and Madison Hughes scored a highlight-reel try of his own as the Eagles gained 12 points in the Series standings. Argentina, the Eagles’ Plate Semifinal opponent, remains ahead of the U.S. by one point at 64.

Despite the Eagles controlling the ball on the opening kickoff, Australia took an early lead thanks to a penalty against Head Coach Mike Friday’s team. Allan Fa’alava’au dummied a pass 10 meters from the try line to dive in-goal and give Australia a 7-0 lead.

Hands on the ball once more, the Eagles confidently marched up the pitch with a controlled attack, passing the ball from touch line to touch line. Hughes took on two defenders across the 22, and it took both to bring down the captain. Andrew Durutalo and Test each made themselves available in support, with Hughes’ offload from the ground finding the Eagles’ no. six for the try in the corner.

Both teams exacerbated the raucous crowd with continuous play in the following minutes. Australia bruised its way into the Eagles’ half in the seventh minute after a pass from Hughes to Test on the wing was called forward by the referee.

Baker, around 20 meters from the touch line, began running a line becoming of a winger. The pass he caught, however, was not from a teammate, but an intercept of an Australia pass. The speedster had only the posts in his sights, as Australia was without a player behind its attack. Baker continued his full-speed sprint from his 22 to Australia’s before basking in the cheers at Hong Kong Stadium. Hughes converted the try to give the Eagles a 12-7 lead.

Hughes kept the lead intact just ahead of the half-time horn, as Cameron Clark found the try zone with a break down the wing from midfield. The sweeper chased down the Australian and made the tackle ahead of the try line while keeping the ball from making contact with the pitch.

Ed Jenkins, Australia’s captain and Hong Kong Sevens Dream Team selection, went up against fellow Dream Team selection Test and came out on top on the other side of halftime, but the Eagle refused to be defeated and drew a penalty in a successive tackle.

Shannon Walker restored Australia’s lead in the 10th minute by breaking Baker’s tackle 10 meters from the line and fending Test in-goal. Clark extended the lead to 21-12 on the 12th-minute restart with the referee playing an advantage to Australia.

Australia was awarded a scrum at the Eagles’ 22, but lost the ball to Hughes, who jumped on his opposing scrum half to force the ball loose. He grabbed the ball and had the confidence and speed to make the 75-plus-meter run past the defense and into the corner of the try zone. Though his conversion was unsuccessful, Hughes’ score brought the Eagles within five points of Australia at 21-17.

The score remained 21-17 at the final whistle, even though the Eagles were just meters from taking the lead in the final minute. A patient attack as the final horn sounded reached Australia’s 22 before heading towards the left-hand touch line. Test’s pass to Durutalo on the wing missed the winger’s hands by a hair and found touch, bringing the Plate Final to an end.

Test finishes his 101st career World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series tournament tied atop the Hong Kong Sevens try-scorer table with Fiji’s Savenaca Rawaca. Each player scored six tries in six matches, with Rawaca’s team winning the 20-minute Cup Final Sunday.

The Eagles’ 12 points from Hong Kong brings the 2014-15 Series total for Friday’s team to 53. Tokyo Sevens will be the next opportunity for the U.S. to ascend the table towards Rio 2016 qualification. Canada, Kenya, and South Africa await the Eagles in Pool C, with matches kicking off April 4.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | v. Australia
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

Australia | v. USA
1. Nick Malouf
2. Jesse Parahi
3. Sam Myers
4. Tom Lucas
5. Bradley Wilkin
6. Con Foley
7. Cameron Clark
8. Greg Ledoudev
9. Ed Jenkins
10. Allan Fa’alava’au
11. Pama Fou
12. Shannon Walker

Men’s Eagles Sevens | 17
Tries: Durutalo, Baker, Hughes
Conversions: Hughes

Australia | 21
Tries: Fa’alava’au, Walker, Clark
Conversions: Clark

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v Kenya – W 21-14
v Wales – W 40-12
v England – D 21-21
Cup QF v Samoa – L 25-16
Plate SF v Argentina – W 28-14
Plate Final v Australia – L 21-17

Roll continues as Eagles fell France at Wellington Sevens

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.

Kickoff between the Eagles and South Africa is scheduled for 12:12 a.m. ET and can be viewed live on Universal Sports. USA Rugby will also provide live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

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
Tries: Delmas
Conversions: Bourahoua

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

Friday selects Men's Eagles Sevens squad for Wellington Sevens

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – National Team Recruitment Camp standout Ahmad Harajly could earn his first cap with the Men’s Eagles Sevens after Head Coach Mike Friday selected the Detroit Tradesmen player for Wellington Sevens, the fourth leg of the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series.

The Eagles are in Pool A in New Zealand with France, Japan, and Series-leading South Africa. Day One at Westpac Stadium kicks off Thursday, Feb. 5, in the American time zones.

Harajly and Mataiyasi Leuta were the two athletes invited to last week’s Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp from the first National Team Recruitment Camp at the Olympic Training Center the previous weekend.

“The Recruitment Camp boys – obviously they worked so hard to get there and sacrificed a lot to get to the combine – just continued that work ethic and, behavior-wise, and with the culture, they’ve slipped in seamlessly,” Friday said. “It just illustrates there are no sacred cows; nobody’s safe.

“You’ve got to earn your opportunity and Ahmad has managed to do that.”

Having played rugby for six years, Harajly had the necessary skills and knowledge to stand above the other 55 athletes (excluding Leuta) at the Recruitment Camp, including American footballers and similar crossover-to-rugby athletes.

Nic Edwards also returns to the Eagles for his first appearance on the Series since Gold Coast Sevens in October 2014, the first leg of the current season. Former AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Madison Hughes will captain the squad for the fourth consecutive leg.

Though only two replacements were made in the Eagles’ squad, Friday commented on the improvement in competition for places in the team at the Olympic Training Center.

“From a camp perspective it was a significant improvement, but more in the collaborative education on and off the pitch to solve problems and solve the bits where we need to get better,” he said. “It wasn’t just coaches telling; it was a problem-solving, two-way street, which was very refreshing and pleasing and just another small step in the evolution of where we are.

“It felt a far stronger environment than it’s felt previously. People have a real sense of where they fit to add value and what happens if they don’t.”

The Eagles currently hold the ninth-place position in the Series standings after three tournaments. Pool mate South Africa leads the table with 59 points, more than twice as much as the Eagles’ 26.

Following the trip across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, the Eagles will travel to Las Vegas for the home leg of the Series, USA Sevens. Tickets are still available for the Feb. 13-15 event at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Watch the Eagles at Wellington Sevens beginning with their match against Japan at 6:21 p.m. ET on Universal Sports and follow live updates with @USARugby on Twitter.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Wellington Sevens
Perry Baker
Danny Barrett
Garrett Bender
Andrew Durutalo
Nic Edwards
Ahmad Harajly
Madison Hughes (C)
Martin Iosefo
Carlin Isles
Folau Niua
Zack Test
Maka Unufe

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Non-traveling Reserves
Zach Pangelinan
Aladdin Schirmer

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Wellington Sevens
v. Japan – Thursday, Feb. 5 – 6:21 p.m. ET
v. France – Thursday, Feb. 5 – 9:14 p.m. ET
v. South Africa – Friday, Feb. 6 – 12:10 a.m. ET

Two from Recruitment Camp hoping to make Wellington Sevens squad at Men's Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – The latest Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp began Sunday, Jan. 18, at the United States Olympic Committee’s Olympic Training Center.

Ahmad Harajly and Mataiyasi Leuta made cases for themselves at the Jan. 10 National Team Recruitment Camp in Chula Vista and earned spots at this week’s camp for consideration for the squad headed to New Zealand next month. Sixteen athletes in residency, as well as three members of the World-Class Athlete Program, will be drilled and tested by the Men’s Eagles Sevens coaching staff.

“We’re looking forward to seeing Matai and Ahmad in camp this week and how they do with the residency athletes,” USA Rugby National Sevens Director Alex Magleby said. “It’s a big step up, but a deserved one, as both worked their way into the framework with quality performances at the National Team Recruitment Camp last weekend.”

Representatives of Detroit Tradesmen Rugby Football Club and California State University, Monterey Bay, respectively, Harajly and Leuta will get another opportunity to impress the coaching staff this week with Head Coach Mike Friday on site.

Residents Pat Blair, Pila Taufa, Mike Te’o, Stephen Tomasin, and Chris Turori returned from the USA Falcons’ development tour of South America Tuesday to join the Camp. Colton Cariaga, Zack Pangelinan, Glen Thommes, and Jack Tracy were also members of the Nese Malifa-coached team that competed in Sevens de Mar del Plata in Argentina and Sevens de Viña del Mar in Chile as part of the 2015 CONSUR South American Sevens Tour who returned to Camp.

Martin Iosefo and Aladdin Schirmer made their World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series debuts with the Eagles at Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens and Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in December. The two debutants helped the Eagles move to ninth in the 2014-15 Series standings following the trip to Africa and were the only two changes made to the squad that traveled to Australia for Gold Coast Sevens.

Next on the docket for the Eagles is Wellington Sevens, the fourth stop of the circuit, before a return to the United States for USA Sevens in Las Vegas.

“It’s a beautiful setup,” Brown said of Wellington Sevens. “Two years ago, [Friday and I] lost the Final with the Kenyan squad. It will be nice to go there and put on a good performance and hopefully the results will take care of themselves and we’ll be in a good place come Day Two.

“The boys will be in good spirits for USA Sevens. We’ve got a job to do in Wellington first and then hopefully we can kick on to Las Vegas and make the fans proud and show them what we’ve been doing for the past six months.”

Friday’s team has been placed in Pool A with Series-leading South Africa, France, and Japan in New Zealand. Japan will offer the first test at Westpac Stadium Thursday, Feb. 5, at 6:21 p.m. ET.

First Name Last Name Club / School HP Team Height Weight (lbs.)
Perry Baker 1823 Residency / Tiger 6’1″ 180
Danny Barrett San Francisco Golden Gate Residency 6’3″ 220
Garrett Bender At Large Residency 6’4″ 220
Pat Blair Seattle Saracens Residency / Serevi 6’1″ 220
Nate Brakeley New York Athletic Club Northeast NDA 6’5″ 242
Colton Cariaga Life University Life NDA 5’10” 180
Andrew Durutalo   Residency 6’2″ 245
Nic Edwards At Large Residency 6’2″ 200
Walter Elder Kansas City Blues Philadelphia EC / Atlantis 6’3″ 215
Ahmad Harajly Detroit Tradesmen RFC   6’4″ 220
Will Holder Army World-Class Athlete Program – Army 6’2″ 210
Madison Hughes Dartmouth College Residency / AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans 5’8″ 170
Martin Iosefo University of Montana AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans / Tiger 6’1″ 215
Carlin Isles At Large Residency 5’8″ 165
Ben Leatigaga Army World-Class Athlete Program – Army 6’0″ 210
Mataiyasi Leuta California State University, Monterey Bay   6’3″ 235
Folau Niua At Large Residency 6’1″ 197
Zack Pangelinan Old Mission Beach Athletic Club Tiger 5’8″ 190
Aladdin Schirmer Central Washington University AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans 6’2″ 220
Pila Taufa At Large Residency 6’3″ 205
Mike Te’o Belmont Shore Residency / Tiger 5’8″ 205
Zack Test At Large Residency 6’3″ 195
Glen Thommes Schuylkill River AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans / Atlantis 6’3″ 215
Stephen Tomasin San Diego State Residency 5’10” 200
Jack Tracy Belmont Shore Tiger 6’2″ 205
Chris Turori Old Mission Beach Athletic Club Residency 6’4″ 225
Maka Unufe At Large Residency 6’2″ 200

Unavailable for selection:
Derek Lipscomb
Kingsley McGowan
Nu’u Punimata (injured)
Shalom Suniula
Michael Ziegler (injured)