Eagles charge past South Africa, into Dubai Cup Semifinals

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Following their first-ever defeat of New Zealand in the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens pool stage, the Men's Eagles Sevens overturned a 12-point, second-half deficit in Saturday's Cup Quarterfinal to beat South Africa, 21-19.

Matai Leuta scored his third career HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series try and Perry Baker added his fifth of the tournament at 7he Sevens Stadium in the victory, just the U.S.'s fourth all-time against the Blitzboks. The Eagles will face England in the Cup Semifinal at 8:03 a.m. ET.

Like they did against New Zealand in Friday's Pool C encounter, the Eagles ticked the first points on the scoreboard. After Zack Test originally won possession from Folau Niua's kickoff, both teams traded turnovers before Leuta drew two defenders into committing an infraction in the tackle area. The Eagles got into position for a set play and forced South Africa to pinch in from the wing, allowing Test to send a pass on a string to Baker in full stride for the opening try.

Similarly to its fellow Tier One nation, South Africa kicked into gear after conceding. In passing from wing to wing, the Eagles were sent backwards by their opposition, and Justin Geduld pounced on a loose pass inside the 22 to level the match at 7-7.

Watch the Eagles beat South Africa on day two in Dubai

Seabelo Senatla, a contender for fastest sevens player behind Baker and Carlin Isles, chased a kick towards the corner of the try zone in the sixth minute, reaching the ball at the try line. The momentum of the wing brought him into touch, however, before he could plant the ball in-goal.

The play came back for an infraction, to the Eagles' dismay, and, a few passes later, Philip Snyman found space on the wing to give South Africa a 12-7 lead heading into the break.

The Eagles were put to the test in the opening minutes of the second half, as South Africa combined contact and finesse to move into the attacking half. A chip kick was sent from one side of the pitch to Senatla on the other to help reach the 22, but Baker and Niua each made their one-on-one tackles to stem the immediate danger. Garrett Bender was made to chase Senatla in the ninth minute and caught the South African as he reached to dot down on the try line. Geduld converted to push his side's advantage to 19-7 with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Isles replaced Baker before the ensuing restart and held onto a high pass as he went tumbling to the ground. Senatla was the cause of Isles losing his balance, and was sent to the sin bin for a yellow-card offense. After initially turning over possession in their own half, the Eagles drew a penalty in the breakdown. Leuta backed himself against two defenders just inside midfield and avoided both attempted tackles to place the ball underneath the uprights.

Brett Thompson came into the match at 19-14 and made an immediate impact by winning the restart. Maka Unufe gathered the ball to begin the attack, Niua broke to the 10 through a gap, and Test took contact at the 22. Bender found Isles in the middle of the pitch, and the 'Fastest Man in Rugby' had room enough to hit third gear and score under the posts to level the match. Captain Madison Hughes, who did not buckle under the pressure of a touch-line conversion in the final seconds of the defeat of New Zealand, converted the try to give the Eagles a 21-19 lead.

South Africa returned to full strength on the restart, which was won by Senatla. A few key tackles helped rattle the Blitzboks in the breakdown, and a penalty gave the Eagles possession. The U.S. managed the clock and held the ball to kick the ball into touch when time ran out to advance to the Cup Semifinal.

England defeated Argentina in its Cup Quarterfinal at 7he Sevens Stadium to set up a date with the U.S. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:03 a.m. ET and can be viewed live on the World Rugby website.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. South Africa

1. Carlin Isles

2. Matai Leuta

3. Brett Thompson

4. Garrett Bender

5. Zack Test

6. Kevin Swiryn

7. Folau Niua

8. Maka Unufe

9. Nate Augspurger

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Will Holder

South Africa | v. USA

1. Chris Dry

2. Philip Snyman

3. Francois Hougaard

4. Kwagga Smith

5. Werner Kok

6. Kyle Brown

7. Cheslin Kolbe

8. Ryno Benjamin

9. Justin Geduld

10. Cecil Afrika

11. Seabelo Senatla

12. Juan de Jongh

Men's Eagles Sevens | 21

Tries: Baker, Leuta, Isles

Conversions: Hughes (3)

South Africa | 19

Tries: Geduld, Snyman, Senatla

Conversions: Geduld (2)

Men's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens

v. Portugal - W 45-14

v. France - L 26-21

v. New Zealand - W 14-12

Cup QF v. South Africa - W 21-19

Cup SF v. England - Saturday, Dec. 5 - 8:03 a.m. ET