MATCH REPORT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A 14th-minute penalty goal nearly sunk the Men's Eagles Sevens' hopes for a win in their HSBC Wellington Sevens opener Friday, but a try after the full-time whistle confirmed a 24-20 defeat of Samoa.

Perry Baker scored two first-half tries as Mike Friday's team took a lead into the break, and second-half substitute Matai Leuta saved the win with a nifty step within 10 meters of the try line at the end of the match. With a plus-four point differential after the initial round of pool play matches, the Eagles lead Pool C at the third leg of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The U.S. goes up against England in its second match at Westpac Stadium at 8:54 p.m. ET.

The Eagles had to give up possession from the opening kickoff thanks to the referee's whistle, but Will Holder's work in the breakdown - still in the first minute - turned over the ball and Danny Barrett, in his first match of the season, barreled halfway through Samoa's half. Baker supported him on the wing and received a pass before dotting down in-goal for a 5-0 lead.

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Kevin Swiryn, still wearing a wrap on his forehead from a cut, went right through his opposite number during the ensuing possession to put the Eagles back in scoring territory. He drew a penalty in the breakdown before Samoa knocked the U.S. lineout at the 22, but the Eagles kept their opposition pinned in its own half. Baker intercepted a pass 15 meters from the try line to score under the uprights, taking a 12-0 lead.

Faalemiga Selesele put Samoa on the scoreboard in the sixth minute following his team's first venture into the U.S. half of the pitch. The try-scorer had a teammate on the wing as he headed toward the touch line, and was able to fend Madison Hughes for the try. Baker nearly scored his hat-trick try in the dying seconds of the first half, but a knock and ensuing scrum killed off the remaining time on the clock, sending the teams into the break with a 12-5 score line.

The Eagles could not hang onto the ball on the second-half kickoff despite Zack Test's fingers getting to it, and Samoa Toloa rounded Baker for a try and 12-10 score. The U.S. kept hold of the ball in the ninth and 10th minutes and got within a few meters of the try line once again, but a misplaced pass from Baker allowed Samoa to place the ball in its own try zone.

Hughes' put-in to the five-meter scrum gave the Eagles a platform for their possession, and a hard-charging run from Swiryn set up space for Test to extend the lead to 19-10 in the 11th minute. Swiryn was replaced by Leuta before the ensuing kickoff, while Carlin Isles came on for Baker.

Samoa won the restart and quickly scored through Danny Tusitala, who kicked the conversion for a 19-17 score. Successive offside calls against Barrett and Palamo in the last minute of the match gave Samoa a penalty near the 22, and Tusitala went for the win with a penalty goal, which was successful.

Down, 20-19, with no time on the clock, the Eagles moved down the field, avoiding being held up and turning over the ball in the tackle area. The Eagles spread the attack after drawing a penalty near Samoa's 22, and the ball went to the other side of the pitch. Leuta took one step towards the middle of the field, drawing his defender the wrong way, and got the ball out of his hands in contact ahead of the try zone. The ball was knocked backwards by Samoa, but Isles was there to pick it up and score the match-winning try.

The 24-20 victory followed England's 17-14 defeat of France, another nail-biter at Westpac Stadium. The Eagles will face England for the second time this season at 8:54 p.m. ET Friday, with live updates provided on Twitter.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Samoa
1. Carlin Isles
2. Matai Leuta
3. Danny Barrett
4. Ben Pinkelman
5. Zack Test
6. Kevin Swiryn
7. Folau Niua
8. Thretton Palamo
9. Nate Augspurger
10. Madison Hughes
11. Perry Baker
12. Will Holder

Samoa | v. USA
1. Alefosio Tapili
2. Faalemiga Selesele
3. Tain Lam
4. Jack Saena
5. Belgium Tuatagaloa
6. Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa
7. Danny Tusitala
8. Tomasi Alosio
9. Tila Mealoi
10. Samoa Toloa
11. Tom Iosefo
12. Siaosi Asofolau

Men's Eagles Sevens | 24
Tries: Baker (2), Test, Isles
Conversions: Hughes (2)

Samoa | 20
Tries: Selesele, Toloa, Tusitala
Conversions: Tusitala
Penalties: Tusitala

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Wellington Sevens
v. Samoa - W 24-20
v. England - Friday, Jan. 29 - 8:54 p.m. ET
v. France - Friday, Jan. 29 - 11:54 p.m. ET