Eagles lose late lead, Wellington Sevens Cup Quarterfinal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Scotland took advantage of a late yellow card to end the Men’s Eagles Sevens’ Cup hopes with a 19-15 defeat of Mike Friday’s team Saturday in the Wellington Sevens Cup Quarterfinal.

The Eagles drop to the Plate Semifinal, where they will face Fiji at 10:24 p.m. ET.

Scotland began the match with ball in hand thanks to a long kickoff by Folau Niua, and the defense that kept both Japan and France to a try apiece turned over possession. A penalty against Scotland near its own 22 gave captain Madison Hughes the chance to set up his team’s attack, and a switch between Niua and Maka Unufe set the captain away on the wing for the match’s first try.

Niua played a big part in the next scoring play with an interception on a Scotland pass just outside the Eagles’ try line. The Eagles knew exactly what to do with the ball: get it to the wing. The ball moved through hands to Zack Test in the middle of the pitch, and Carlin Isles showed off his speed by rounding the Scotland winger for a 70-meter try and a 10-0 Eagles’ lead four minutes into the match.

The Eagles did not put up as many points on the scoreboard as they did on day one at Westpac Stadium, but they kept Scotland from threatening their try zone in the first half. Test chased down Damien Hoyland the full length of the pitch after a turnover on the wing to keep Scotland from getting one back on the eve of halftime.

Each of the 12 players wearing red, white, and blue knew a 10-0 lead was not going to be enough, and Andrew Durutalo did his part to see the Eagles extend the lead in the early minutes of the second half. Unufe’s looping pass lined up Durutalo with a defender, who stood no chance of making a wrap tackle; instead, he felt the brute force of the six-foot-two, 245-pound Eagle. The Eagles were awarded a penalty and a pass from Niua found Danny Barrett waiting on the wing for the try and 15-0 lead.

Four minutes is a long time in the game of rugby sevens, and Scotland proved no lead is safe. After losing a scoring opportunity with a foot in touch meters from the try line and a penalty against the Eagles for disciplinary reasons on the touch line on Scotland’s end, James Johnstone dotted down to cut the lead to 15-5.

The Eagles attempted to hold on to the ball with two minutes remaining, and Test was shown a yellow in the 13th minute for doing exactly that in the breakdown. James Fleming scored immediately to make the score 15-12.

Again, the game was in the Eagles’ hands with a won restart, but Martin Iosefo lost the ball forward in a tackle and Scotland took advantage of the extra space on the pitch. Hughes could not make the tackle through Fleming’s fend and gave up the match-winning try.

The 19-15 loss sets the Eagles’ combined record at Wellington Sevens at 2-2, with a possible two matching remaining. Fiji suffered a similarly-heartbreaking loss in its Quarterfinal against England, which was decided in extra time. Kickoff in the Plate Semifinal is scheduled for 10:24 p.m. ET. Watch the match live on Universal Sports and follow match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v Scotland
1. Carlin Isles
2. Nic Edwards
3. Danny Barrett
4. Garrett Bender
5. Zack Test
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Ahmad Harajly
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo

Scotland | v USA
1. Scott Riddell
2. James Fleming
3. Struan Dewar
4. James Johnstone
5. Colin Gregor
6. Mark Robertson
7. Damien Hoyland
8. Nyle Godsmark
9. Darren Gillespie
10. Scott Wight
11. Chris Dean
12. Gavin Lowe

Men's Eagles Sevens | 15
Tries: Hughes, Isles, Barrett
Conversions: N/A

Scotland | 19
Tries: Johnstone, Fleming (2)
Conversions: Wight (2)

Men's Eagles Sevens | Wellington Sevens
v Japan - W 40-5
v France - W 38-7
v South Africa - L 26-14
Cup QF v Scotland - L 19-15
Plate SF v Fiji - Friday, February 6 - 10:24 p.m. ET