Eagles elated as core team status solidified with Cup berth
"I couldn’t be happier and couldn’t be more proud."
GLASGOW, Scotland – The Men’s Eagles Sevens defeated France 21-14 at Glasgow Sevens Saturday to earn a spot in the Cup Quarterfinals. With Scotland’s 1-2 record in pool play, the Eagles will not have to participate in the promotion/relegation tournament at Marriott London Sevens next weekend.
Knowing the best thing they could do was win, the Eagles came out with a game plan to stick it to France. The former University of California tandem of Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully were at the forefront on defense, keeping France at bay with numerous hard tackles.
Almost three minutes in, France’s Steeve Barry caught a pass behind his back – which confused Folau Niua – and ran from the 22 for the match’s opening try. Paul Albaladejo added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Nick Edwards continued his impressive showing in Scotland with a strong run which set up the Eagles’ reply. Niua accepted a pass and took the ball within ten yards of the try zone before offloading to a streaking Zach Test. An uncontained ball after the tackle was gathered by Hawley to cut the deficit. Shalom Suniula’s conversion evened the match at 7-7.
Hawley’s work on restarts Saturday has led to a few of the Eagles’ scoring chances, and the ensuing kickoff from his try was no different. Hawley leapt into the air to bring the ball down to Scully, who moved the ball wide to Test. The former Oregon Duck used his quick feet to change direction around two defenders and touch down between the sticks for the lead. Suniula converted his second of the match, two important conversions, for the 14-7 halftime lead.
The Eagles gained the second half restart, but Hawley tripped over Matt Hawkins, forcing a turnover. Terry Bouhraoua grabbed the ball and beat Hawkins for the match-tying try. Albaladejo converted again to make it 14-14 with nearly six minutes remaining.
The Eagles could have advanced to the Cup Quarterfinals with a win or draw, but there was no need to take the chance of wasting the clock with a tie game. Andrew Durutalo and Luke Hume entered the match and added fresh legs to the lineup.
A couple of strong sequences by the Eagles failed to put points on the scoreboard, but their defensive work also kept France from crossing the 22. A great counterruck from Test forced another turnover for the Eagles, and Hume found Niua in the middle of the field. Niua dummied a pass out wide and ran past three defenders for the try. Suniula converted his third of the match leaving the Eagles to hold France for the remaining 30 seconds.
A few bad passes from France into touch wasted time and eventually ran down the remaining seconds on the clock, signaling the end of the match and the Eagles 21-14 win in their final pool game.
“The guys dug really deep and we all played for each other,” captain Matt Hawkins said. “We got into this game and the boys’ character and heart was phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier and couldn’t be more proud. Now we can focus on the rest of this tournament, London and, of course, Rugby World Cup Sevens.”
With Scotland’s 28-0 loss to New Zealand in the last match of pool play, the Eagles can concentrate on the Cup Quarterfinals knowing they have retained their core team status for next year’s Series.
"We will sleep a little easier tonight," USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville said. "There was a lot of pressure on them and now they can relax and focus on tomorrow."
The Eagles will take on South Africa, who won Pool A, in the Cup Quarterfinals at 6:48 A.M. ET Sunday, May 5. Follow live updates from @USARugby on Twitter.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. France
1 Carlin Isles (s)
2 Nick Edwards
3 Andrew Durutalo (s)
4 Shalom Suniula
5 Zach Test
6 Matt Hawkins
7 Folau Niua
8 Jack Halalilo (s)
9 Luke Hume (s)
10 Blaine Scully
11 Colin Hawley
12 Brett Thompson (s)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. France
Tries: Hawley, Test, Niua
Conversions: Suniula (3)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Glasgow Sevens
Cup Quarterfinals vs. South Africa - 6:48 A.M. ET* Sunday, May 5
*correction: 6:58 A.M. ET