Test earns Dream Team nomination, helps Eagles win Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens

GOLD COAST, Queensland – The Men’s Eagles Sevens staved off a second-half comeback from France Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium to win the match, 31-15, and the Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens.

Zack Test kicked off the festivities with the match’s first try in the second minute after a set play from the lineout. Folua Niua ran around his lifted teammate to get the ball out to Madison Hughes in the middle of the pitch, and all the captain had to do was get the ball to Test. For his sixth try of the tournament, Test used the threat of Perry Baker on the wing to catch the France defenders looking to the outside and ran straight to the try zone.

Keeping their defensive shape throughout the first half, the Eagles were tested by France, who defeated Canada and Scotland during the knockout phases of Day Two to earn their berth in the Bowl Final. Big Virimi Vakatawa required a two-man commitment in the tackle to be taken down, and Baker and Test responded to the challenge in the fourth minute to force a turnover.

A minute later, Hughes, Niua, and Test dizzied the defense with quick movement on a set play from a quick tap at midfield to create a hole for Garrett Bender. After a weekend of tough work with the forwards, Bender was rewarded with his first try of the tournament to extend the Eagles’ lead to 10-0.

Not long after the restart, the first-half horn sounded to signal the break, but the Eagles were awarded a lineout. It only took a few extra seconds of the referee’s time to get the ball to the wing and in the hands of Baker, who rounded the corner for his fifth try of the tournament. Hughes’ conversion gave the Eagles a 17-0 lead at the half.

In previous years, the Eagles struggled to close out matches on the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series circuit. Sunday, they almost let France steal the match with a few defensive lapses.

Vakatawa drew another two defenders with a run down the wing in the eighth minute, and he was able to stay upright with the ball long enough to offload to Terry Bouhraoua for France’s first try.

The Eagles began losing the ball to unforced errors, including a pass over the head of Baker in space in the ninth minute. After the ball went into touch, Baker kicked it to keep it away from a quick France throw and earned himself a two-minute session in the sin bin.

With the man-advantage, Vakatawa tested the Eagles out wide again and eluded a tackle from Test to dove over in the corner.

It was Test’s turn to misplace a pass after the Eagles regained possession, and Vakatawa again proved instrumental in France’s attack in making space for Stephen Parez for a third try. All three of France’s second-half tries were unconverted, however, keeping the Eagles in the lead, 17-15.

Against the run of play, Test willed his team to the finish line with an individual try in the 13th minute. The Eagles all-time try-scoring leader fended the first defender and saw enough space to make a run for the try zone. Hughes converted to pad the lead to 24-15.

Not wanting to let France back in the match, Mike Friday’s Eagles secured the restart and were rewarded with a final try from Danny Barrett. The final score stood at 31-15 following Hughes’ successful conversion.

With the Bowl win at Gold Coast Sevens, the Eagles earn eight points in the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series. At the end of the season, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Test was selected to the Gold Coast Sevens Dream Team for his seven-try performance in Australia and overall work in a consistent Eagles team. Only Samoa’s Samoa Toloa scored more tries over the course of the tournament, while Baker was right behind the American with six tries in his Series debut.

Following the Cup Final, in which Fiji outlasted Samoa to win the first tournament of the Series, the IRB drew the pools for the second leg, Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens. The Eagles are again grouped with England, as well as Australia and Kenya.

The Eagles will assemble in Chula Vista, Calif., at the Olympic Training Center to prepare for Dubai, which is scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 5-6.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Bowl Final v France
1. Carlin Isles (@ 14')
2. Nic Edwards
3. Danny Barrett
4. Peter Tiberio
5. Zack Test
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe (@ 14')
9. Garrett Bender
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Pat Blair

France | Starting XII
1. Vincent Deniau
2. Pierre Gilles Lakafia
3. Jean Baptiste Mazoue
4. Terry Bouhraoua
5. Stephen Parez
6. Bryan Dimeck
7. Renaud Delmas
8. Jonathan Laugel
9. Steeve Barry
10. Virimi Vakatawa
11. Jean Baptiste Gobelet
12. Vincent Inigo

Men's Eagles Sevens | 31
Tries: Test (2), Baker, Bender, Barrett
Conversions: Hughes (3)

France | 15
Tries: Bouhraoua, Vakatawa, Parez