April 15, 2017
Eagles Sevens Win North American Cup Final at Singapore Sevens
The USA Men’s Eagles advanced to the Cup Final after earning their fifth consecutive Cup Quarterfinals appearance at the HSBC Singapore Sevens on Saturday. They entered the Series in fifth place in the standings and exited in the same position with 101 points. They also extended their lead over sixth place Australia who has 94 points and marched closer to New Zealand in fourth place with 110 points.
After the Pool phase of play ended on Saturday, the Eagles Sevens finished 2-1 to finish second in Pool D to New Zealand. This set up a Cup Quarterfinal match against Fiji where they gained a key 24-19 win. This moved them into their fourth consecutive Cup semi-finals in the Series against Australia.
Although Australia had the upper hand in the Bronze match at the Hong Kong Sevens, the USA has won the other matches against Australia this season. The USA were up to the task and dominated the semi-final 40-7 setting up a North American Cup Final against Canada.
Canada, like the USA, came in second in their pool with a 35-7 loss to Fiji. In day two, however, they were at the top of the game in defeating New Zealand 26-14 in the Cup quarterfinals, England 17-5 in the Semi-finals before defeating the USA in a thrilling match 26-19.
At the HSBC Singapore Sevens, Canada achieved gold, USA silver and England bronze over Australia. Wales won the Challenge Trophy over Scotland.
Cup Quarterfinals: USA v Fiji
Facing the defending Olympic Champion Fiji, is a significant challenge any day. The Men’s Eagles Sevens were up to the task, as they controlled possession and emerged with a 24-19 victory in the HSBC Singapore Sevens Cup Quarterfinal Sunday. With the win the USA moved to the Cup Semi-finals against Australia, who entered the tournament trailing the USA for fifth place in the Standings by three points.
The USA needed to replace Andrew Durutalo for Day Two with Malon Aljiboori. Durutalo will be missed, as he is the King of the Poach at the breakdown. A healty Durutalo would have provided an additional physical presence against Fiji. Aljiboori is on the game day roster for the first time and should he enter the match would gain his first Eagles Sevens cap.
Fiji opened the match knocking on the ball from its restart. The USA exhibited patience in their attack with Danny Barrett advancing the ball to the 22 before Ben Pinkelman scored in the corner for a 5-0 lead. In a tactical move, Mike Friday inserted Maka Unufe for Martin Iosefo after the try.
Perry Baker claimed the restart, but a jarring tackle of Ben Pinkelman forced a loose ball. Waisea Nacuqu showed why he would make the Dream team as he was the first to the ball and scored a long try to give Fiji a 7-5 lead.
In the last minute of the first half, defended a chip and chase by Fiji well and counterattacked with Stephen Tomasin adding a try from midfield. Madison added the conversion for a 12-7 lead at the break.
Mike Friday played a chess match in bring back Martin Iosefo to start the second half. Baker drew a penalty on Folau Niua’s restart. Iosefo then took the ball after a lineout to advance the ball near the try line. Fiji was penalized and Tomasin took the tap and added his second try of the match for a 17-7 lead.
Folau Niua then created another lineout from a Fiji penalty, which a resulted in an Iosefo offload in contact to Tomasin before Ben Pinkelman broke two attempted tackles for a 24-7 score.
Perry Baker almost added another try in the 13th minute as he chased down his kick. Josua Vici claimed a 22-meter drop kick to narrow the Eagles lead to 24-12. This was followed by a knock by the USA allowing Isake Katonibau to score to narrow the final to 24-19 as time had expired.
Cup Semi-Finals: USA v Australia
The Men’s Eagles Sevens qualified for their first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Cup Final with a 40-7 victory over Australia. There last Cup Final at the 2015 London Sevens, resulted in a 45-22 win over Australia, their first Series Cup title.
Australia took the early lead, after the USA had the early possession, as John Porch grubber ended in a try and a Tom Lucas conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Stephen Tomasin gathered the restart and went through phases before a Folau Niua offload to Perry Baker tied the match at 7 all after Hughes’ conversion. Tomasin then evaded a tackle and fended a defender leading to a try and a conversion by Hughes for a 14-7 lead.
Danny Barrett claimed the restart and drew a penalty after a high tackle. Martin Iosefo finished with a try after taking on two defenders. Hughes was perfect for the half and the Eagles Sevens lead 21-7 at the break.
An Australia error from the restart gave the USA possession. Danny Barrett proved what a force he can be in drawing a defender which led to Tomasin scoring his second try in the corner to increase the lead to 26-7.
Ben Pinkelman grabbed the restart, however the Eagles lost possession as Madison Hughes kick and chase went in-goal. In the ensuing 22 meter drop kick, Folau Niua caught the kick and Danny Barrett bulled his way by defenders for a try under the posts to lead 33-7. A Maka Unuufe offload to Baker then added a final try for a 40-7 lead.
With teh match well in hand, Malon Al-Jiboori made his Series debut in the final minute. Matai Leuta and Mike Te’o were also on the pitch in the closing minute in defense.
Cup Final: USA v Canada
The USA reached the Cup Final for the third time, while for Canada it was their second. It was the first time in World Rugby Sevens Series history that there was a North American Cup Final.
Prior to the 2017 Singapore Sevens, the USA lost in the 2010 Adelaide Sevens 38-10 to Samoa, while in 2015 they won the London Sevens 45-12 over Australia. Canada meanwhile lost to New Zealand at the 2014 Glasgow Sevens 54-7.
Canada can out strong and for the first six minutes dominated the possession to take a 19-0 lead. The USA came back in the last minute to score two tries by Baker and Tomasin to narrow the score to 19-12 at the break. Baker then added a quick try to level the match to begin the second half. The USA had an opportunity to take the lead when Stephen Tomasin went over the line, but was ruled held up by Fuailefau and Jones. A pass was the 5 meter USA scrum bounced and Canada recovered and attacked. This resulted in a Lucas Hammond try for Canada to gain their first Cup title in 140 events in winning 26-19 over the USA.
Cup Final Recap
Matt Mullins lead the opening charge, as he took the ball into contact at midfield. Soon after, he then broke two tackles for the first score of the match. Nathan Hirayama’s conversion was wide, but Canada had a 5-0 lead a minute into the match.
Danny Barrett claimed the restart, and could not take advantage of a penalty by Canada. When Canada regained possession, a John Moonlight offload to Harry Jones resulted in a try under the posts. Hirayama slotted the conversion and the lead was 12-0 after four minutes.
Barrett once again grabbed the restart and at the breakdown the ball was jarred loose on the tackle. A Lucas Hammond grub kick found Mike Fuailefau in-goal for a try and Hirayama converted stunning the USA with a 19-0 lead after five minutes of play.
The USA then attacked off the restart claimed again by Barrett. Martin Iosefo found a gap with Stephen Tomasin and Danny Barrett advancing the ball until it was lost forward on the tackle. From a set play, Ben Pinkelman managed to kick the ball out the side and Perry Baker picked and ran in for a try, his 40th of the 2016-17 Series, as he became the leading try scorer this season. Madison Hughes converted to narrow the score to 19-7.
Hirayama’s restart went deep. The combination of Ben Pinkelman holding up two defenders at the breakdown and a Folau Niua offload had Stephen Tomasin adding a second USA try in the last minute. The USA showed their resolve in coming back to narrow the score at the break to 19-12.
The USA opened the second half just the way they ended the first. After claiming the restart, the ball went wide and Perry Baker beat three defenders for a try. Hughes then slotted the conversion to level the score at 19 all.
Canada gathered the restart, but a knock on thwarted their attack. In the ensuing USA scrum, Madison Hughes took the ball to the blind side. After a couple of phases and a Danny Barrett fend, Canada was penalized with the Eagles Sevens 15 meters from the line. The ball went wide and Stephen Tomasin went over the line with Mike Fuailefau and Harry Jones on the tackle. A TMO resulted to determine if a try would be awarded and the ruling was the ball was held up.
The USA won the 5 meter scrum, however the pass by Madison Hughes bounced and Canada recovered to counterattack. Canada went through multiple phases before USA players converged and Lucas Hammond found a seam for a try under the posts. Nathan Hirayama then converted for a 26-19 lead.
The restart was taken by the USA, but the ball was knocked forward with 29 seconds remaining in the match. Canada won the scrum and Hirayama tracked back before kicking the ball into touch for the win.
Both teams deserve congratulations for the quality of their performance in this match and throughout the Series. Canada will cherish their first ever Cup Final title, while the USA can look at the overall picture of how the program has been progressing in reaching their second Cup Final in the last two years. The USA have also appeared in the last four Cup semi-finals in the Series.
Hopefully, the USA Men’s Eagles Sevens will continue their progression as the Series moves to Paris for the 9th leg of the Series on May 13-14. The USA did solidify their 5th place in the Standings at they have 101 points. New Zealand is within site in 4th with 110 points, while Australia trails in 6th with 94 points. Canada with their Cup win moves into 7th place with 76 points.
The Dream Team also found the North Americans claiming five of the sevens spots. Stephen Tomasin, Danny Barrett and Perry Baker made the team for the USA, while Justin Douglas and Nathan Hirayama, the player of the final, made the team for Canada. The reamining two spots went to Simon Kennewell of Australia and Waisea Nacuqu of Fiji.
The USA will be in Pool B along with New Zealand, Wales and Argentina. Canada will head up Pool A with South Africa, Scotland and Japan. England, who won the bronze medal, will top Pool C and will be joined by Kenya, France and Spain. In Pool D are Australia, Fiji, Samoa and Russia.
HSBC Singapore Sevens Squads
USA Men’s Eagles Sevens: 1 Anthony Welmers 2 Ben Pinkelman 3 Danny Barrett 4 Matai Leuta 5 Mike Te’o 6 Andrew Durutalo 7 Folau Niua 8 Maka Unufe 9 Stephen Tomasin 10 Madison Hughes (captain)11 Perry Baker 12 Martin Iosefo 13 Malon Al-Jiboori
Fiji v. USA: 1.Isake Katonibau 2.Jasa Veremalua 3.Kalione Nasoko 4. Setareki Bituniyata 5. Sevuloni Mocenacagi 6. Mesulame Kunavula 7. Osea Kolinisau 8. Waisea Nacuqu 9. Jerry Tuwai 10. Amenoni Nasilasila 11. Josua Vici 12. Nacanieli Labalaba 13. Lemeki Tulele
Australia v. USA: 1. Henry Hutchison 1 Simon Kennewell 3 Nick Malouf 4 Liam McNamara 5 James Stannard 6 John Porch 7 Tim Anstee 8 Tom Kingston 9 Ed Jenkins 10 Tom Lucas 11 Charlie Taylor 12 Lachie Anderson 13 Dylan Pietsch
Canada v USA: 1 Matt Mullins 2Jared Douglas 3 Mike Fuailefau 4 John Moonlight (Cap) 5 Luke McCloskey 6 Isaac Kaay 7 Lucas Hammond 8 Justin Douglas 9 Nathan Hirayama 10 Pat Kay 11 Harry Jones 12 Luke Bradley 13 Josiah Morra
Men’s Eagles Sevens | HSBC Singapore Sevens
- v. Wales – W 35-19
- v. Scotland – W 33-26
- v. New Zealand – L 21-14
- Cup QFs v Fiji -W 24-19
- Cup SFs v Australia – W 40-7
- Cup Final v Canada – L 26-19