MATCH REPORT

HONG KONG - The Men's Eagles Sevens returned to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit with a victory Friday, defeating Portugal, 21-5, in their first pool match of Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.

Captain Madison Hughes capped off the match with a try to widen the point differential, with a tight match between Argentina and Australia expected in the other Pool C encounter in the first round of play. Mike Friday's side will continue its march upon Hong Kong Stadium Saturday morning at 12:48 a.m. ET against Argentina.

With Carlin Isles injured and supporting his teammates wearing street clothes on the touch line, the Eagles began the match with ball in hand and refused to give it up in the first three minutes. The team strung 20 passes together from the opening restart as it moved towards the try line, drawing a penalty within 10 meters of the in-goal area. A nifty set play saw Zack Test approach the line, but it took an extra run from Martin Iosefo to open the scoring at 7-0.

Portugal was nearly kept from possession once again with the ensuing restart, but successive balls lost forward allowed the team in green and red to feed the ball into the scrum. The Eagles did enough to win the ball back with ferocious counterrucking, however, and set Perry Baker away on the wing from the defensive 22 for a 14-0 lead.

Tiago Fernandes found the slightest of gaps in the stalwart U.S. defense with the next possession, but could not get away from a tackle by the sweeping captain. His support runner, Tomas Appleton, was unmarked, however, and scored his side's lone try of the match to send the teams into the break at 14-5.

The Eagles knew they had to increase the tempo in the match if they were to find a stride that would put them in good stead ahead of a tough day two, but were kept scoreless through the first six minutes of the second half. Baker and Iosefo both found themselves at fault with misplaced passes into touch, and a lineout lost in the contest towards the latter stages of the frame gave Portugal opportunities to cut into the lead, but the tenacious defending continued.

Hughes was first to a loose ball in the 10th minute before the Eagles were awarded a put-in, when Ben Pinkelman and Maka Unufe were thrown into the action by Friday. Unufe, who has missed plenty of Series time this season due to injury, went into contact straight away, and set up Hughes' 13th-minute try to bring the final score to 21-5.

The Eagles move to the top of Pool C for the moment, with the four points from the victory important heading into the second day of pool play at Hong Kong Stadium. Argentina, ranked just behind the U.S. in the Series standings, awaits in the next match of Hong Kong Sevens at 12;48 a.m. ET Saturday. The seventh leg of the Series is being streamed live via World Rugby's website, while live match updates are provided by USA Rugby's Twitter account.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Portugal
1. Nate Ebner
2. Ben Pinkelman
3. Danny Barrett
4. Garrett Bender
5. Zack Test
6. Peter Tiberio
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Nate Augspurger
10. Madison Hughes(C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo

Portugal | v. USA
1. Aderito Esteves
2. Vasco Ribeiro
3. Jose Cabral
4. Pedro Leal
5. Antonio Vidinha
6. Vasco Poppe
7. Pedro Silverio
8. Vasco Mendes
9. Joao Belo
10. Tiago Fernandes
11. Tomas Appleton
12. Antonio Monteiro

Men's Eagles Sevens | 21
Tries: Iosefo, Baker, Hughes
Conversions: Hughes (3)

Portugal | 5
Tries: Appleton
Conversions: N/A