Another hat trick, another win as Eagles book Gold Coast Bowl Final ticket

GOLD COAST, Queensland – The Men’s Eagles Sevens dominated Portugal Sunday in the Gold Coast Sevens Bowl Semifinal, keeping their opposition scoreless in the 33-0 victory.

The Eagles started early and started fast, as Perry Baker turned on the jets in the first minute following a stolen lineout by Garrett Bender. Quick passing from Folau Niua and Zack Test set up Baker in the middle of the park, and that gave him enough room to round the corner. Captain Madison Hughes missed the conversion for a 5-0 lead.

Test gave the Eagles possession from the restart and Mike Friday’s side went through phases to the right side of the pitch. Niua and Danny Barrett combined going left to give Test an opportunity to step his defender, and the joint-leading try-scorer going into the match took enough time for Andrew Durutalo to make a run. Durutalo split two defender and dotted down over the line to extend the Eagles’ lead to 12-0.

Baker nearly added to his tally in the fifth minute, but he could not beat Portugal’s Aderito Esteves, who is no slouch in the speed department. Portugal had some time on the ball for a bit at the end of the half, but could not get anything from it. Portugal gave away possession after the horn blew to signal the end of the first half, and the Eagles only needed enough time to get the ball wide to Baker for the winger’s second try of the match. Hughes finished off the scoring play with the conversion to send the Eagles into halftime with a 19-0 lead.

Though the Eagles did not look in danger of giving up the lead, Friday reminded his players of their second-half duties, including keeping their defensive shape and using the space out wide.

Durutalo and Test again combined on the restart to give the Eagles clean possession, and Hughes made it count. The captain received the ball at midfield and dummied a pace before weaving through a few defenders. Once he broke free, Baker followed in support, and Hughes found the wing with a pass in the tackle and Baker dotted down between the sticks for his hat trick.

After giving the Eagles a 26-0 lead, Baker was replaced by Carlin Isles. The fresh legs paid dividends on both sides of the ball, as Isles worked well with his teammates on the wing to shut down any opportunities Portugal had in attack. In the 12th minute, Isles got the ball 15 metres from the touch line, fended Nuno Guedes, and ran to the try zone to score his second try of the day. Hughes’ conversion brought the final score to 33-0.

Baker and Test lead the Eagles in tries scored after five matches with five apiece, and Hughes’ nine conversions gives the captain 18 points.

With the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series acting as the initial qualifier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the Eagles need as many points as possible from each leg. Against France in the Bowl Final, the Eagles could gain eight with a win.

Watch the Eagles from Cbus Super Stadium live at 2:17 A.M. ET on Universal Sports and follow live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Bowl Semifinal v Portugal
1. Carlin Isles (@ 8')
2. Nic Edwards (@ 12')
3. Danny Barrett
4. Peter Tiberio (@ 8')
5. Zack Test
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe (@ 12')
9. Garrett Bender
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Pat Blair (@ 10')

Portugal | Starting XII
1. Vasco Mendes
2. Diogo Mateus
3. Joao Lino
4. Joao Belo
5. Joseph Gardener
6. Diogo Miranda
7. Aderito Esteves
8. Miguel Macedo
9. Nuno Guedes
10. Hugo Valente
11. Pedro Leal
12. Jose Vareta

Men's Eagles Sevens | 33
Tries: Baker (3), Durutalo, Isles
Conversions: Hughes (3)

Portugal | 0

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
Bowl Final v France - Sunday, October 12 - 2:17 A.M. ET