Eagles gain 12 Series points from Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - The Men's Eagles Sevens gained 12 points in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings Sunday after a 29-19 defeat to reigning Series Champion Fiji in the HSBC Cape Town Sevens Plate Final.

Mike Friday's team could not replicate its 2014 exploits in South Africa - a Plate Final defeat of Fiji in Port Elizabeth - but scored the joint-most points against the Series leader in the young 2015-16 season. The Series will resume in New Zealand Jan. 30-31, 2016, at HSBC Wellington Sevens.

The Eagles gave away possession in the opening minutes with penalties before Fiji pounced on a loose pass from Will Holder in its own half. Jasa Veremalua reached the in-goal area first in the fourth minute after breaking the defensive line at midfield. Fiji took a quick lineout following the restart and Ravouvou capped off the attack in the fifth minute with a try in the corner.

Folau Niua cut into Fiji's 12-0 lead before the halftime whistle could sound. Carlin Isles chased down Savenaca Rawaca to save a try and helped get the Eagles out of trouble, dragging a defender to his 22 after the turnover. Kevin Swiryn kept play alive to get to midfield and Zack Test offloaded to an onrushing Niua for a 12-7 score at the break.

Maka Unufe made sure the Eagles started the second period with ball in hand by getting fingers to the restart, and Isles rushed to maintain it. He ran laterally to look for a gap but passed wide to Test instead, and the U.S.'s all-time leading points- and try-scorer diced through several defenders before offloading to Hughes for a 14-12 lead.

As if sprung into action by the Eagles taking the lead, Fiji responded immediately. Unufe tapped the restart backwards, where Osea Kolinisau knocked it to Ravouvou, who split Thretton Palamo and Unufe to score. Isake Katonibau capitalized on Matai Leuta missing a pass after the ensuing restart to extend the lead to 24-14 after 10 minutes.

Rawaca nearly added Fiji's third of the half in the 12th minute but lost his footing and stumbled to the try line, losing control of the ball in the process. The Eagles lost the scrum, however, and Emosi Mulevoro dove for the in-goal area for a 29-14 score. Brett Thompson ended the match on a good note for the Eagles, taking an offload from Hughes at midfield and cutting inside the sweeper to bring the final score to 29-19.

With England and New Zealand earning 10 points or fewer towards the Series standings, the U.S. remains ahead of both teams, who finished in the top four last season. The Eagles remain in third in the standings with South Africa's Cup Final victory, as the U.S. holds a superior point differential to Argentina, also on 29 points.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Fiji

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. Thretton Palamo

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Will Holder

Fiji | v. USA

1. Apisai Domolailai

2. Jasa Veremalua

3. Viliame Mata

4. Isake Katonibau

5. Pio Tuwai

6. Nemani Nagusa

7. Osea Kolinisau

8. Alivereti Veitokani

9. Emosi Mulevoro

10. Sevuloni Mocenacagi

11. Savenaca Rawaca

12. Vatemo Ravouvou

Men's Eagles Sevens | 19

Tries: Niua, Hughes, Thompson

Conversions: Hughes (2)

Fiji | 29

Tries: Veremalua, Ravouvou (2), Katonibau, Mulevoro

Conversions: Ravouvou (2)

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Cape Town Sevens

v. Wales - W 26-19

v. Portugal - W 52-7

v. Australia - L 26-21

Cup QF v. Kenya - L 26-10

Plate SF v. New Zealand - W 28-14

Plate Final v. Fiji - L 29-19