The USA Men’s Eagles Sevens traveled to Paris for the HSBC Paris Sevens at State Jean-Bouin on May 13-14. The USA entered Paris in fifth place with 101 points with New Zealand in in fourth place with 110 points. New Zealand advanced to the Bronze Final, while the Eagles won 5th place beating Samoa, so making up that gap should be difficult by the conclusion of the London Sevens. On the other hand, the Eagles held an eleven point edge over Australia at sixth place and that will increase after Paris.
Mike Friday made two changes in his squad for the Paris Sevens, as Alex Schwartz of Old Blue, replaced Danny Barrett due to an injury. Don Pati also returned to the team in which he made his debut in Dubai. while Alex Schwartz of Old Blue made his debut scoring a try at the HSBC Paris Sevens at State Jean-Bouin in pool play.
The Eagles were second in Pool B at the Paris Sevens with wins against Argentina and Wales, while losing to New Zealand.
The USA side had been in four consecutive Cup Semifinals in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Singapore.They translated these Semifinals into a Silver, Bronze and two fourth place finishes. There would not be a fifth, as England defeated the Eagles in the Cup quarterfinals.
With the loss to England, the Eagles faced Fiji in a 5th place semi-final and advanced to the final with a 24-14 win. In the other 5th place semi-final, Samoa defeated host team France 21-19 with France within a meter from a comeback win.
In the 5th place final, the USA beat Samoa 24-19. It wasn’t the result that the Eagles wanted, but they came back strong to win 5th.
Congratulations to South Africa on winning the HSBC World Rugby World Series.
England came into the match with a depleted bench from two injuries to Dan Bibby and Harry Glover. Will Grover was inserted for Biddy.
Niua kicked to open the match and it went into the hands of Tom Mitchell. A penalty at the breakdown had Mitchell kicking for touch and then winning the lineout, however an errant pass by Mitchell went into touch. The USA used a lineout to attack as the ball went wide right and then left as Perry Baker went in for his seventh try of the tournament for a 5-0 lead.
The restart went long to Ruaridth McConnochie and went to Tom Mitchell whose pace had him going inside Ben Pinkelman and then past sweeper Folau Niua for a try under the posts. After his own conversion, it was 7-5.
Dan Norton dropped the restart, however after the ensuing USA scrum, the ball was knocked on at the USA 22 meters. This set up McConnochie going into contact and popping the ball to Charlie Hayter for a try. Mitchell again converted to extend the lead to 14-5 just prior to halftime.
The Eagles claimed the opening second half kick and England was quickly penalized at the breakdown. The ball went wide left to Durutalo, who powered his way forward and then wide left to Perry Baker inside the 22 meter. It then went wide left and then right again with pin point passing. Baker finished with a try in the corner and Hughes slotted the conversion from touch to narrow the score to 14-12.
On the restart, Maka Unufe tapped the ball and Rodwell was penalized. Pinkelman started the play and a pass by Hughes was intercepted by Oliver Lindsay-Hague for a try. Mitchell conversion was good to extend the lead to 21-12 with three minutes to play.
The USA went on the attack as Hughes found a gap and then the ball went wide left to Unufe, who was taken into touch by McConnochie. England then used the lineout to get the ball into the outside channel and Dan Norton danced past Unufe’s outstretched arms for a try and a 26-12 win.
With the loss, the USA missed out on a five consecutive Cup semi-final appearance. They will meet Fiji in a 5th place semi-final, as Fiji lost to Scotland 24-0.
USA Starters: Durutalo, Tomasin, Pinkelman, Niua, Hughes, Baker, Iosefo
5th Place SF: USA v Fiji
Vatemo Ravouvou kicked to begin the match and Maka Unufe tapped the ball and Samu Bale raced in for a try. Ravouvou then converted for a 7-0 lead.
The restart bounced and Madison Hughes took the ball, found a gap and offloaded inside to Baker. Fiji won a penalty at the breakdown and from a lineout 10 meters from the line, the ball went long and Andrew Durutalo secured. The USA went on the attack and after a yellow card by Setareki Bituniyata for a neck roll, Maka Unufe offloaded to Hughes for a try and conversion to knot the match at 7 all.
The restart was taken by Tomasin, but he was dragged into touch. Fiji attacked from the lineout with Perry Baker making two tackles in the outside channel. The combination of Ben Pinkelman and Andrew Dututalo was then successful in turning over the ball at the breakdown. The ball then went wide to Stepphen Tomasin for a try. Hughes was perfect on the conversion at at halftime the Eagles had a 14-7 lead.
At the break, Mike Friday implored his team to keep possession, catch the ball on the restarts and to work in threes.
Tomasin went high on the second half restart and Fiji was penalized for contact while he was in the air. The ball went wide to Baker, who slipped and stepped into touch. From the lineout, Amenoni Nasilasila went behind the last player in the line and raced 80 meters for a try. Ravouvou then slotted the conversion to tie the match at 14 all.
Shortly after the ensuing restart Mocenacagi was issued a yellow card. The USA swung the ball from side to side and after a penalty by Fiji, Unufe offloaded to Ben Pinkelman, who slipped a tackle and scored near the corner for a 19-14 lead.
Unufe caught the restart and and ball went through Baker to Pinkelman to Durutalo, but then the ball was lost on contact. Fiji had a scrum 10 meters defending their line. The USA won a tighthead and Madison Hughes sealed the match with a try and a 24-14 win.
The win advanced the Eagles to the 5th place final where they will meet Samoa, who held on to beat France 21-19.
USA Starters: Durutalo, Tomasin, Pinkelman, Niua, Hughes, Baker, Unufe
5th Place Final – USA v Samoa
Maka Unufe tapped back the Samoa opening kick and it went out to Mike Te’o who was taken into touch. Samoa attacked from a quick lineout and Perry Baker went to the bin for an intentionall knocking a Samoa pass forward. Despite the USA being down a man, after a scrum to the Eagles, Folau Niua went in for the first score. Te’o converted and the USA led 7-0.
Unufe tapped the restart to Niua and from a breakdown, Matai Leuta did the hard work and offloaded to Te’o for a try and conversion to increase the lead to 14-0. An injury also occurred to Samoa player on the play while attempting a tackle.
The USA claimed another restart and a Baker to Durutalo no look pass resulted in a try in the corner for a 19-0 lead.
With no time, Samoa grabbed the restart. Pinkelman stripped the ball and a Te’o attempt at a foot pass led to a Samoa Toloa try to narrow the lead to 19-7 at the break.
The second half restart went off Samoan hands and Pinkelman secured and Unufe finished with a try in the corner increasing the lead to 24-7.
Mike Friday then brought in Schwartz, Tomasin and later Pati. Samoa’s Vaa won the restart and after some flow, Alatasi Tupou set up Samoa Toloa for his second try to narrow the score to 24-14.
The restart bounced into touch and Te’o executed a quick lineout and the USA attacked from deep in their territory. Unfortunately for the Eagles, a ball was dropped and picked up by Francis Ieremia for a easy try as the match ended 24-19 to the USA.
During the 5th place win, reserves picked up some much needed playing time and the experience should help in their development. Positives may be taken in not letting up and being aggressive in the restarts and in the breakdown. Mistakes leading to tries will be discussed as well.
USA Starters: Durutalo, Leuta, Pinkelman, Niua, Te’o, Baker, Unufe
Perry Baker continues to be difficult to defend as he had 8 tries in the first four matches. Although shut out in the final two matches, he still was leading the Paris try scoring as the Bronze and Cup matches were being played.
The Baker try against England, where the team swung the ball back and worth wide four times with pinpoint passing, could not be defended. It certainly will be shown on the highlights. When this happens the Eagles 7s are unstoppable.
The Eagles continue to be very successful on restarts and at the breakdown, although their defense at times had momentary lapses. This placed the Eagles under some undue pressure.
After losses to New Zealand and England, the USA can take satisfaction in beating an always difficult Fiji team and then Samoa to earn 5th at Paris.
Congratulations are in order for Alex Schwarz for not only getting his first Eagles Sevens cap, but his also scoring a try.
After four previous Cup Semi-final appearances, and a Cup Final at Singapore, the expectations for the team are high. The USA will not be satisfied with their performance at Paris. They will regroup, and contend at London next week.
The USA entered the Paris Sevens in fifth place chasing New Zealand for 4th, nine points behind. With New Zealand securing a Cup Semi-final, they likely will not be able to contend for 4th. The good news is that the Eagles will be able to extend the distance between them and 6th place Australia, who entered this Series stop eleven points behind the USA.
Men’s Eagles Sevens: HSBC Paris Sevens – HSBC London Sevens
1. Alex Schwarz 2. Ben Pinkelman 3. Don Pati 4. Matai Leuta 5. Mike Te’o 6. Andrew Durutalo 7. Folau Niua 8. Maka Unufe 9. Stephen Tomasin 10. Madison Hughes (C) 11. Perry Baker 12. Martin Iosefo 13. Naima Fuala’au
England: 1 Harry Glover 2 Charlie Hayter 3 Phil Burgess 4 Dan Norton 5 James Rodwell 6 Tom Mitchell 7 Dan Bibby 8 Tom Bowen 9 Oliver Lindsay-Hague 10 Ruaridh McConnochie 11 Callum Sirker 12 Will Edwards 13 Will Glover