The USA Men’s Eagles Sevens team entered the HSBC New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton in first place in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. This is the third stop on the circuit, taking place on January 25-27 (based on Eastern Time) and being broadcast LIVE on ESPN+. The USA won Pool B beating Tonga 29-7, Samoa 34-14, and England 19-5 in Pool B. They then beat Scotland 19-14 in the Cup Quarterfinals, New Zealand 17-7 in the Semifinals and losing to Fiji 38-0 in the Cup Final.
The Eagles Sevens claimed their second-consecutive silver medal for the first time ever after the Dubai and Cape Town Sevens and are ranked No. 1 in the World Series standings, one point ahead of No. 2 New Zealand and eight points ahead of No. 4 England.
Winning the Pool was marred by the broken jaw that Perry Baker sustained against Tonga in the first match. He returned to the U.S. for surgery and it is hoped that he makes a speedy recovery.
Cup Quarterfinals: USA vs. Scotland
Ben Pinkelman claimed the opening restart and Madison Hughes scored 14 seconds into the match and then converted for a 7-0 lead. They increased the lead as Folau Niua offloaded inside to Tomasin with Isles out wide. That set up Tomasin for a try, pushing the lead to 12-0. Carlin Isles then split two defenders for a try under the posts with Hughes making an easy conversion, 19-0.
Scotland answered back after a missed tackle on Max Farland, whith Isles tracking back to make the tackle. The offload sprung Robbie Ferguson for a try, with Gavin Lowe converting to cut the lead to 19-7 at the break.
The Ealges Sevens had the first opportunity to add to their total, however a TMO showed that Martin Iosefo lost control of the ball as he crossed the line.
It was then Scotland’s turn to attack after a turnover ball. A no look pass from Gavin Lowe to Max Farland resulted in a try with Lowe conversion cutting the lead to 19-14.
In a bizarre twist, Scott Riddell held on to Ben Pinkelman and the match ended win a U.S. narrow win. That advanced the team to the Cup Semifinals in New Zealand for the first time since 2001. They will meet New Zealand in the semifinals in a battle between the top two teams in the standings.
The USA entered the Hamilton Sevens in 1st place in the HSBC Sevens Series standings with New Zealand 2nd, Fiji 3rd, and South Africa 5th. These will be the teams that occuppy the top 4 places after the tournament ends. The top 4 teams at the end of the Series automatically qualify for the Olympics in 2020.
Cup Semifinals: USA vs. New Zealand
The USA controlled most of the possession during the first half. Madison Hughes went blind off a 5-meter scrum to take a 5-0 lead. An errant pass by Folau Niua was intercepted by Regan Ware, who raced down the pitch and was tackled and held up in-goal. After the referee consulted with an assistant referee, a try was awarded and Koroi slotted the conversion for a 7-5 lead.
Martin Iosefo made a strong run to the New Zealand 22-meters, but Isles lost the ball forward. A forward pass then gave the ball back to the U.S.
A tip tackle by Koroi on Tomasin led to a yellow card. Strong runs by Pinkelman and Hughes finally led to a Tomasin try. Hughes then slotted the conversion for a 12-7 lead.
New Zealand then went on the attack through several phases before losing the ball forward. The USA attacked from a scrum and Carlin Isles scored a try from the breakdown to take a 17-7 lead as time expired. The USA claimed the restart, and the a penalty was called on the U.S. The team defended and held on for a 17-7 win over New Zealand.
The USA has now advance to three consecutive Cup Finals and will play Fiji, who defeated South Africa 29-7 in the other semifinal. Regardless of the outcome, the USA will exit Hamilton still in first place in the standings.
Cup Final: USA vs. Fiji
The USA entered their third consecutive Cup Final this season. The had two silver medals in the first two stops to lead the HSBC Sevens Series standings. Playing Fiji is always a challenge, but the team has had some previous success against them. Keeping possession will be a key for the Eagles Sevens team. The team defense for the USA has been stellar the entire tournament.
USA Starters for the Final include Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Stepehn Tomasin, Ben Pinkelman, and Martin Iosefo. Fiji starters are Nacugu, Tuwai, Mocenacagi, Nakoko, Botitu, Tuimaba, and Derenalagi.
Fiji started the final on fire with a Nasoko break, and a no look pass by Derebalagi to Jerry Tuwai for a try. Nacuqu added a second and Tuimaba added a third with Tuwai converting for a 17-0 lead at the break.
Fiji didn’t let up during the second half as a Jerry Tuwai offload to Alosio Naduva resulted in a try with Tuwai converting for a 24-0 lead. Brett Thompson advanced the ball to within a couple meters of the line, but a Fiji counterattack had Tuwai racing the length of the pitch for a try and then converting. He also set up the final try by Naduva and added a conversion for a 38-0 win.
With the win, Fiji won consecutive finals in New Zealand. The USA was not in the match. They played well during the tournament and are only one of four teams to begin the Series with three consecutive finals.
The USA will claim their third consecutive silver medal and are now tied in the standings with Fiji with 57 points. New Zealand is in 3rd with 54 points and South Africa moves to 4th with 44 points.
Next stop in the Series is in Sydney next weekend.
In other Finals, Tonga beat France 33-10 for 13th place, England won the Challenge Trophy 36-7 over Kenya, Scotland beat Samoa 24-19 for 5th place, the bronze went to New Zealand with a 29-7 win over South Africa.
USA, Scotland, Squads (USA Preview Article) & (Win Pool)
USA: 1 Carlin Isles 2 Ben Pinkelman 3 Danny Barrett 4 Anthony Welmers 5 Brett Thompson 6 Kevon Williams 7 Folau Niua 8 Maceo Brown 9 Stephen Tomasin 10 Madison Hughes 11
Perry Baker 12 Martin Iosefo 13 Pat Blair
Scotland: 1 Scott Riddell 2 Nyle Godsmark 3 Kyle Steyn 4 Robbie Fergusson (C) 5 Harvey Elms 6 Glenn Bryce 7 Jamie Farndale (C) 8 Joe Nayacavou 9 Sam Pecqueur 10 Gavin Lowe 11 Max Farland12 Ross McCann 13 Alec Coombes (Injury Reserve)
Fiji: 1 Sevuloni Mocenacagi 2 Josua Vakurunabili 3 Kalione Nasoko (C) 4 Paula Dranisinukula 5 Mesulame 6 Meli Derenalagi 7 Vilimoni Botitu 8 Waisea Nacuqu 9 Jerry Tuwai 10 Alosio Naduva 11 Aminiasi Tuimaba 12 Terio Nacuqu 13 Apenisa Cakaubalau
Men’s Eagles Sevens Staff
Head Coach | Mike Friday
Assistant Coach | JD Stephenson
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Jon Hood
Athletic Trainer | Brian Green
Team Manager | Scott Novack
HSBC New Zealand Sevens Schedule
vs Tonga W 29-7
vs Samoa W 34-14
vs England 19-5
Cup Quarterfinal vs Scotland W 19-14
Cup Semifinal vs New Zealand W 17-7
Cup Final vs Fiji L 38-0