U.S. overcomes slow start to Cape Town to beat Wales

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - The Men's Eagles Sevens recovered from a 12-0, fourth-minute deficit Saturday to defeat Wales, 26-19, in their first match of HSBC Cape Town Sevens.

Zack Test scored his 125th and 126th career HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tries in the win, the latter proving the match-winner in the contest. The Eagles take to the Cape Town Stadium pitch next against Portugal, which lost to Australia in its opening Pool C encounter, at 6:36 a.m. ET.

Watch the Eagles open HSBC Cape Town Sevens with a win

Mike Friday's squad showed signs of rustiness in the opening minutes of the match, with multiple passes not finding hands and sluggishness to the breakdown resulting in two quick strikes by Wales.

Men's Eagles Sevens HSBC Cape Town Sevens preview

Brett Thompson accepted the opening kickoff only for a pass from Test intended for captain Madison Hughes to be intercepted by Chris Knight for the opening try, which was converted. Thompson again gained possession for his team from the ensuing restart and the Eagles were able to string a few passes in front of the posts towards the try line, but Garrett Bender's final ball to Carlin Isles bounced in front of the winger and into touch.

After recovering possession via tenacious work in the breakdown, the Eagles found themselves on the back foot when Maka Unufe could not handle a pass near the 22. Luke Treharne dotted down in-goal to extend Wales' lead to 12-0.

Wales was whistled for being offside on the restart, but Hughes knocked the ball in the first breakdown following the quick tap. Test stole the ball once Wales reached the Eagles' half and the U.S. found Isles on the wing behind his 22. With a full pitch ahead of him and a sweeper to beat, Isles weaved around the pitch at near-full flight to get the Eagles on the board at 12-7.

The Eagles turned over possession in Wales' half in the final minute of the first frame, and Wales went for a try to apply extra pressure going into the break with a grubber through the defensive line. Test was first to the ball to start the Eagles' attack, and Unufe provided a nifty offload in contact to Thompson for the match-leveling score at the other end.

Friday made three substitutions heading into the second half, with Perry Baker, Matai Leuta, and Kevin Swiryn all brought onto the pitch. Leuta forced a turnover in the ninth minute and Test took advantage to give the Eagles their first lead of the match at 19-12. Wales replied from the restart after the ball bounced from Bender's fingers into its possession. Treharne made several defenders miss in a lengthy run before offloading to Sam Cross for the try.

Another infraction by Wales on the restart allowed the Eagles to set up a set play from a midfield tap. Hughes took contact and got the ball out to Swiryn, and the Eagles moved the ball wide to Baker. The winger ate up meters and took a few defenders out of the play as Test approached to receive the try-assisting offload, and the Eagles took a final, 26-19, lead for the victory.

As the rugby world saw last weekend at Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, every point in every match matters in terms of seeding for the knockout rounds. The U.S. carries a plus-seven point differential going into the second match of Pool C against Portugal, with Australia holding place at the top of the group with a superior, plus-45 point differential. The Eagles' match against Portugal - set for 6:36 a.m. ET - can be viewed live on World Rugby's website.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Wales

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

Wales | v. USA

1. Luke Treharne

2. Ethan Davis

3. Nicky Griffiths

4. Chris Knight

5. Owen Jenkins

6. Jordan Williams

7. Angus O'Brien

8. James Benjamin

9. Kristian Phillips

10. Sam Cross

11. Adam Thomas

12. Ben Roach

Men's Eagles Sevens | 26

Tries: Isles, Thompson, Test (2)

Conversions: Hughes (3)

Wales | 19

Tries: Knight, Treharne, Cross

Conversions: O'Brien, Treharne

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Cape Town Sevens

v. Wales - W 26-19

v. Portugal - Saturday, Dec. 12 - 6:36 a.m. ET

v. Australia - Saturday, Dec. 12 - 10:19 a.m. ET