Fiji creates extra time, ends Eagles' Cup hopes in Canada
VANCOUVER - Fiji cut short a thrilling HSBC Canada Sevens Cup Quarterfinal in extra time Sunday, coming back from a 12-point deficit to defeat the Men's Eagles Sevens at BC Place Stadium.
The U.S. held a 19-5 lead halftime and Fiji never led at any point in the match until the sudden-death try, sending the Eagles into the Plate Semifinals. Wales lost to South Africa in the Quarterfinals and face Mike Friday's men at 2:24 p.m. PT.
Already 0-3 against Fiji on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this season, and having played the Series leader a week ago in the HSBC USA Sevens Cup Semifinal, the Eagles came out of the gates with the game plan to take Fiji's game to Fiji. By taking control of possession from a Folau Niua restart through Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes found space to run and had the strength to break a tackle. Martin Iosefo came in with an angle towards a gap at Fiji's 22 and received the offload to score under the posts.
Hughes converted the try, 7-0, and maneuvered quickly to spin out of three tackles on the ensuing restart, ducking out of the reach of the Fiji defenders. Following a knock Perry Baker retrieved a Fiji ball also lost forward, and used his own reach to keep two defenders from tackling him. The Eagles won a penalty 10 meters in front of the posts and Iosefo took the ball into contact, freeing his arms to offload to the open Ben Pinkelman for a 12-0 lead.
Niua's fifth-minute restart was easily caught by Fiji, and two penalties conceded in the Eagles' defensive half allowed Savenaca Rawaca to run down the wing, with one fend enough to go over the line.
Much like their play in their Pool D match against New Zealand Saturday, the Eagles played well beyond the siren signaling the end of the half. Baker and Hughes each did well to keep hold of possession through multiple tackle attempts, with the former combining the efficiency with pace to reach midfield. Garrett Bender was lifted in a tackle, with Masivesi Dakuwaqa judged by the match official to have performed the tackle illegally for a yellow card.
Niua sent a kick from midfield through the defense towards the opposite corner of the pitch but Osea Kolinisau beat Baker to the ball. The Fijian punched the ball into touch, however, conceding a penalty five meters from his own try line. Bender received the ball in front of the posts from the tap and kept his legs driving to bring the ball over the try line.
The Eagles' 19-5 lead at the half was undone quickly in the second frame, caused by unenforced errors in possession. Fiji won a penalty in the attacking half with Barrett conceding in the breakdown, and a chip into the empty U.S. backfield saw Kitione Taliga into the in-goal area without hassle.
Fiji took a tap from another offensive penalty against the Eagles in its attacking half, and Jasa Veremalua acrobatically saved a loose offload from touch. Fiji moved the ball through hands to the opposite side of play for Kolinisau to break away to level the match at 19-19.
The Eagles regained the lead from the ensuing restart when Iosefo continued his strong Quarterfinal performance by beating three defenders to gain the 10 and offloading to the streaking Baker. Even with the sweeper to beat Baker was able to dot down under the posts, and Hughes' conversion put the lead at 26-19.
The restart was won in the air by Fiji, and another chip over the U.S. defense created havoc with the Eagles out of their defensive shape. Several offloads from the Fijians near the corner was capped with another match-leveling try through Veremalua, sending the match into extra time.
Unable to retain the restart once again, the Eagles were forced to defend in the extra session of rugby sevens. Sevuloni Mocenacagi slipped out of Baker's reach in his own half and burst away to pass the 10, and Taliga was there in support for the offload to send a looping pass out to Rawaca on the wing, ending the match at 31-26.
The Eagles drop to the Plate Semifinals at the inaugural Canada Sevens, and will play Wales at 2:24 p.m. PT. In three matchups this season, all in pool play, the U.S. is unbeaten. The tournament can be viewed live online on World Rugby's website.
Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Fiji
6. Pat Blair
7. Folau Niua
8. Seth Halliman
10. Madison Hughes(C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo
Fiji | v. USA
1. Nemani Nagusa
2. Jasa Veremalua
3. Masivesi Dakuwaqa
4. Isake Katonibau
5. Pio Tuwai
6. Emosi Mulevoro
7. Osea Kolinisau
8. Josua Vici
9. Jerry Tuwai
10. Kitione Taliga
11. Savenaca Rawaca
12. Sevuloni Mocenacagi
Men's Eagles Sevens | 26
Tries: Iosefo, Pinkelman, Bender, Baker
Conversions: Hughes (3)
Fiji | 31
Tries: Rawaca (2), Taliga, Kolinisau, Veremalua
Conversions: Kolinisau (2), Taliga
Discipline: Dakuwaqa (Yellow)
Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Canada Sevens
v. France - W 42-14
v. England - W 17-12
v. New Zealand - L 17-5
Cup QF v. Fiji - L 31-26
Plate SF v. Wales - Sunday, March 13 @ 2:24 p.m. PT