Kenya no match for Semifinalist Eagles in Vegas

LAS VEGAS - The Men's Eagles Sevens rebounded from a slow start to the second day of HSBC USA Sevens to advance to the Cup Semifinals with a 26-14 defeat of Kenya Saturday.

The Sam Boyd Stadium lights were on as the U.S. entered the field of play to raucous support, and put away the memories of the shutout loss to South Africa to take care of business. Mike Friday's troops, depleted due to several injuries throughout the weekend, will play HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series-leading Fiji in Sunday's Semifinal at 12:50 p.m. PT.

Kicking into the wind to begin the match, Folau Niua sent the ball deep into Kenyan territory, and the Eagles rushed to keep their opponent close to the try line. They won a penalty in the breakdown, and a barnstorming run from Garrett Bender paved the way for Danny Barrett to open the scoring under the posts less than a minute into the Quarterfinal.

Unable to score in the final match of pool play, the Eagles found their stride early against Kenya, slinging the ball about as if the wind was not playing a factor in the desert.

"I think we started realizing what we can do collectively as a team," Martin Iosefo said post-match. "We just went back to what we do best in attack. We kind of went away from it in previous games, and that was our main focus [going into the Quarterfinal]. We didn't really emphasize the attack in the previous game - we wanted to showcase our defense against South Africa - but then we kind of lost track of what we can do on attack."

Perry Baker and Iosefo combined to get a turnover in the third minute of play, and, following a 30-meter pass to Zack Test across the pitch, the man from Hawaii found his winger for a try in the corner. Captain Madison Hughes kicked his second successful conversion from one of the more difficult angles on the pitch for a 14-0 lead.

Penalties led to Kenya nearing the U.S. try line towards the end of the half, and Baker supported Niua in keeping out a try in the sixth minute. The wing picked up a loose ball and looked to round the corner, but was tackled and able to draw a penalty. The wind helped push Niua's kick to touch backwards, and Kenya stole it for Collins Injera to cross the try line.

The Eagles looked to restore the 14-point lead following the seven-point play as the hooter sounded, but lost possession to Kenya via a penalty for a Billy Odhiambo try. It was converted to send the teams into the half level at 14-14.

With the home crowd on all sides and a second trip to a Cup Semifinal of the season on the line, the Eagles came out of the break determined to secure a victory. Following a loss of possession from the opening restart, Bender used perfect technique to win a penalty for his team in the eighth minute. Baker was given the ball on the wing without the space to run in-goal, and Niua fed Iosefo with the scrum-half pass for the midfielder to beat two defenders on his way to a try. Hughes converted another tough one for a 21-14 lead with five minutes remaining.

Test threw his weight around on the restart, taking a penalty in the process, and finished off the game with a try in the 13th minute following a lengthy spell of possession. Ben Pinkelman replaced Iosefo and kept the engine running to move forward, and Test took the ball past two defenders on the other side of the breakdown to bring the final score to 26-14.

The Eagles were still made to see out the win, as Kenya looked for another try with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match, but another crunching tackle from Test and one from Barrett helped slow down the opponent's attack before the match ended.

Fiji is level atop the Series standings after four rounds, and has beaten the Eagles by nine and 10 points in separate knockout-round matches this season. Saturday's Cup Semifinal will kick off at 12:50 p.m. PT.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Kenya

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

Kenya | v. USA

1. Oscar Ayodi

2. Dennis Ombachi

3. Oscar Ouma

4. Augustine Lugonzo

5. Billy Odhiambo

6. Humphrey Kayange

7. Biko Adema

8. Andrew Amonde

9. Samuel Oliech

10. Leonard Mugaisi

11. Collins Injeri

12. Willy Ambaka

Men's Eagles Sevens | 26

Tries: Barrett, Baker, Iosefo, Test

Conversions: Hughes (3)

Kenya | 14

Tries: Injera, Odhiambo

Conversions: Adema (2)

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens

v. Wales - W 19-12

v. Canada - D 26-26

v. South Africa - L 29-0

Cup QF v. Kenya - W 26-14

Cup SF v. Fiji - Sunday, March 6 @ 12:50 p.m. PT