Four Eagles score in USA Sevens Cup Quarterfinal shutout of Canada

LAS VEGAS – A shutout, 20-0, victory against Canada Saturday in the USA Sevens Cup Quarterfinal sends the Men’s Eagles Sevens to their fourth-ever Cup Semifinal on the World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series circuit.

Three first-half tries gave the home crowd of 34,593 at Sam Boyd Stadium reason to cheer, while Canada barely touched the ball in the first half.

Folau Niua’s kickoff was just out of the reach of Maka Unufe, who took the Canadian player down before he could pass to a teammate. Canada made eight passes before losing the ball forward for a U.S. put-in to the scrum. The Eagles won the scrum and moved the ball to Danny Barrett on the wing, and the Bear brought a few defenders with him.

The Eagles swung the ball to the other side of the pitch before Andrew Durutalo provided the assist on the opening try. Barrett ran 15 meters to the corner flag and dove to reach the ball over the line. John Moonlight’s attempted tackle while Barrett was mid-dive required the referee to confer with the T.M.O., which confirmed the Eagle had dotted down in-goal prior to his feet finding touch. The tough-angled conversion was missed by Niua, giving the Eagles a 5-0 lead.

Unufe was not able to catch the restart, but he got a hand to the ball to keep it from Canada. He ended up grabbing it after one bounce and took a defender out of the play before passing to Carlin Isles. Harry Jones closed Isles down quickly, but the speedster showed quick hands to pop a pass to Niua, who rounded the winger.

Jones and Isles provided momentary cover as Moonlight was a step behind Niua the entire way to the try line. Moonlight was able to bring Niua down, but not until he reached the try line and put the ball against the grass in the corner. Following the missed conversion by Madison Hughes, the Eagles led, 10-0.

Two tries in the first four minutes of the match provided a lead, but it was not enough for an Eagles team hoping to reach their first Cup Semifinal since Adelaide Sevens in the 2009-10 season. Unufe jumped to knock back another restart and Durutalo gave the ball an extra nudge to reach Niua, who dummied past Liam Underwood. One pass to a streaking Zack Test was all it took to extend the lead to 15-0 with a third consecutive try in the corner of Canada’s try zone.

A third missed conversion from the touch line kept the score 15-0, but it was still a three-score match. Canada finally got its hands on the ball on the ensuing restart but immediately lost it. Multiple scrums resulted in a slow end to the half, considering the high-scoring pace of the match’s first five minutes.

“That’s how we want to start it off,” Barrett told World Rugby following the match. “I don’t know that we could’ve started it a better way, actually. That’s the goal every game: keep the opponent to zero.”

With Scotland’s second-half come-from-behind victory in the Wellington Sevens Cup Quarterfinal last weekend fresh in the minds of players and staff, the Eagles kept the pedal to the floor in the second half.

Isles showed some acceleration following a scrum in the eighth minute but was taken into touch by Conor Trainor at the 10. Canada won its lineout and Jones managed to break the 22, but Hughes made a sliding tackle to earn a lineout.

Hughes got the ball back in front of the posts after the Eagles won their lineout and sent a long kick deep into Canada’s half, past the 10. Isles gave chase and pushed the last defender before he touched the ball, committing a penalty. The quick tap led to a pass to midfield that was closed down by Test, who forced a poor pass that was intercepted by Durutalo.

Test took the ball from his teammate and used the extra second to scan the field to get the ball wide to Isles, who, again, was closed down before he was able to get past the defender. Canada attempted to wrestle the ball away from Hughes in the ruck, but Niua and Unufe combined to incapacitate the opposition and get the ball out to Test.

The six-foot, 229-pound Moonlight was given a rough go of things when Durutalo gave the ball to Barrett on the wing. Barrett kept his undefeated record against the Canada captain with a lowered shoulder knocking the man in red to the pitch. The Eagles sent the ball back the other way, and Niua’s dummy allowed him to break through the line. Test rucked over and Hughes sent a bullet to Isles, who juked the wide defender to dot down in-goal and extend the Eagles’ lead to 20-0.

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The Eagles kept Canada in their own half for the remainder of the match and forced their neighbor into multiple penalties in a professional display to close out the final match of the day.

The defeat of Canada was the second of the season for the Eagles, who won, 17-15, at Gold Coast Sevens in the first match of the season for both squads. With the win, the Eagles will face New Zealand, who beat Australia in the evening’s third Cup Quarterfinal, in the Cup Semifinal Sunday.

“We’re ready to give it a go,” Barrett said of the Semifinal matchup. “We’re ready for anyone.”

“[The win] feels good right now but we can’t dwell on it,” Unufe said. “We’re going against New Zealand and that’s a good team. As long as we keep the confidence we had during this game and push it onto New Zealand, hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”

The Eagles’ Cup hopes at Wellington Sevens were ended by Scotland, when Mike Friday’s team let slip a 15-0 lead in the second half to lose, 19-15. They then lost the Plate Semifinal against Fiji, a team they beat in the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Plate Final.

“In New Zealand we were hoping to get the Cup and we didn’t,” Unufe continued. “Coming to this tournament, we knew that even if we win games it’s still not over until we get into that Cup Final.”

Watch the Eagles and the All Blacks Sevens live from Sam Boyd Stadium in the USA Sevens Cup Semifinal at 3:54 p.m. ET on NBC. Match updates will be provided on Twitter by @USARugby.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v Canada
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. Pat Blair
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo

Canada | v USA
1. Sean White
2. Admir Cejvanovic
3. Mike Fuailefau
4. John Moonlight
5. Conor Trainor
6. Mike Scholz
7. Lucas Hammond
8. Pat Kay
9. Patrick Parfrey
10. Liam Underwood
11. Harry Jones
12. Adam Zaruba

Men's Eagles Sevens | 20
Tries: Barrett, Niua, Test, Isles
Conversions: N/A

Canada | 0
Tries: N/A
Conversions: N/A

Men's Eagles Sevens | USA Sevens
v Japan - W 52-12
v Portugal - W 19-7
v South Africa - D 19-19
Cup QF v Canada - W 20-0
Cup SF v New Zealand - Sunday, February 15 - 3:54 p.m. ET