Isles showcases speed, Eagles earn Vegas defeat of Wales

LAS VEGAS - HSBC USA Sevens would not be complete without a happy home crowd, and the Men's Eagles Sevens ensured the fans at Sam Boyd Stadium had reason to cheer early Friday night in a 19-12 defeat of Wales.

The teams were tied at the half following a highlight-reel try from Carlin Isles in the opening minutes, and the Eagles recovered from a few ball-handling mistakes to see out the win. Rival Canada will take to the pitch next against the U.S. in a Las Vegas rematch from a year ago Friday night at 7:36 p.m. PT.

In front of a screaming supporter section and chants of, "U-S-A," the Eagles began without the ball despite kicking off the match. The defensive pressure seen throughout the 14 minutes started from minute one, and tackles from Folau Niua and Zack Test helped win a call from the match official at midfield.

Garrett Bender, in his first action on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit since the second tournament in Cape Town, South Africa, broke the gain line with pace to bring the Eagles within scoring position, and Niua found Martin Iosefo in space in the middle of the pitch for the opening try. Captain Madison Hughes converted for a 7-0 lead.

Wales struck back immediately, however, after the Eagles failed to win the restart. Jordan Williams found a small gap in the defensive line and just beat the chasing Test to the try zone, and dotted down between the posts for a 7-7 score.

Not happy with the score line, the Eagles won the ball back from the restart and overloaded one side of the pitch. Hughes switched the play to Niua on the other side, and the U.S.'s No. 7 kicked deep for the speedy Isles to chase. The wing beat three defenders to the ball, corralled it, and held on in a tackle to put it down over the line. The conversion was a bit wide, leaving the Eagles' lead at an unconverted try, 12-7.

Isles' attempt to double his scoring tally in the final minute of the half backfired, as he was stripped of the ball near midfield. He chased the Welsh attacker to the try line to stop a try, but the support was there for Wales to get the ball into Tom Isaacs' hands on the wing. His score leveled the match at 12-12 after seven minutes.

Both teams had moments of inaccuracies in the early goings of the second half, but the U.S. found ways to keep possession more often than its opponents. Maka Unufe, whom the Eagles missed in New Zealand and Australia, proved instrumental in the second half, keeping the ball alive and attacking defenders in attack and defense.

Bender broke the gain line with a feed from Niua in the 10th minute, and Unufe ensured a loose ball would not fall into Welsh hands. Danny Barrett was slowed momentarily in a tackle in front of the posts before finding an onrushing Niua for the match-winning try.

The 19-12 win sees the Eagles in second of Pool D following one round of play, with South Africa top thanks to a superior point differential from a defeat of Canada. The Eagles will face Canada under the lights of Sam Boyd Stadium Friday at 7:36 p.m. PT, with the live broadcast available on NBC Sports Network.


Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Wales

1. Carlin Isles

2. Ben Pinkelman

3. Danny Barrett

4. Garrett Bender

5. Zack Test

6. Will Holder

7. Folau Niua

8. Maka Unufe

9. Nate Augspurger

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Martin Iosefo

Wales | v. USA

1. Luke Treharne

2. Ethan Davies

3. Chris Knight

4. Luke Morgan

5. Owen Jenkins

6. Tom Isaacs

7. Jordan Williams

8. Lloyd Evans

9. Kristian Phillips

10. Sam Cross

11. Adam Thomas

12. Ben Roach

Men's Eagles Sevens | 19

Tries: Iosefo, Isles, Niua

Conversions: Hughes (2)

Wales | 12

Tries: Williams, Isaacs

Conversions: Treharne

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens

v. Wales - W 19-12

v. Canada - Friday, March 4 @ 7:36 p.m. PT

v. South Africa - Saturday, March 5 @ 2:35 p.m. PT