Eagles kick off final Series stop with defeat of Samoa

LONDON - The Men's Eagles Sevens started their HSBC London Sevens title defense with a professional, 12-5, defeat of Samoa Saturday at Twickenham Stadium.

Captain Madison Hughes scored the match-winning try with a little help from Perry Baker, who also made his way over the try line in the victory. The U.S. continues pool play in Pool A against South Africa at 8:42 a.m. ET, with the live broadcast available to viewers in the United States on World Rugby's website.

Baker had a chance to open the scoring no sooner than the second minute of the match following a set play from a quick tap at the attacking 10. He cut inside from the wing to wrong-foot one defender but could not elude the tackle of the chaser, who kept the Eagle from being able to roll over the try line.

Samoa was not able to get the ball out of the defensive half, however, conceding a penalty at the 22 after winning its lineout. Danny Barrett sent the defense one way with the tap before passing to Hughes to send the ball to Baker on the wing for the opening try. Hughes was unable to convert for a 5-0 U.S. lead.

Tila Mealoi broke the line from the ensuing restart and had a teammate in support, but Folau Niua's tackle at the back kept the Samoans from linking up and scoring. The Eagles slowed play down and went for the set piece in attacking territory only to lose the ball into touch, but Zack Test stole the opponent's lineout.

The Eagles were unable to turn the late second-half attack into points, and Samoa went the other way to end the half with a try from Belgium Tuatagaloa for a level, 5-5, score line at the break.

Samoa was the team to come out more energized than its opponent in the second half, forcing the Eagles into an awkward situation on the restart. Test kept the ball in play along the touch line before his offload in contact was lost forward. The set piece led to Samoa Toloa taking a run down the far wing, but he could not escape the clutches of Baker, who sent his opposite number into touch.

The Eagles won the set piece and Hughes took on two defenders five meters in front of his own uprights. The captain kept his feet through both Samoans' tackles, then fended a third and juked away from a fourth on his way to midfield. Baker offered support and received the ball with 50 meters to go, and the captain was there to get the pop pass from his wing for the try. He converted the score, too, for a 12-5 lead.

Samoa had the chance at a draw with the few minutes remaining in the match, and Martin Iosefo ended a breakaway opportunity from try-scorer Tuatagaloa with a game-saving tackle. Baker lost possession in the defensive end as time ran out, and Bender won a penalty in the tackle area during Samoa's last attack to see out the victory.

South Africa also began Pool A play with a win, a 21-0 shutout of Canada, and will face the Eagles next at London Sevens at 8:42 a.m. ET. The live stream can be found on World Rugby's website, while match updates will be provided by USA Rugby's Twitter account.

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

Samoa | v. USA
1. Alefosio Tapili
2. Faalemiga Selesele
3. Siaosi Asofolau
4. Savelio Ropati
5. Ed Fidow
6. Etiuefa Fiavaai
7. Alex Samoa
8. Tomasi Alosio
9. Tila Mealoi
10. Samoa Toloa
11. Belgium Tuatagaloa

Men's Eagles Sevens | 12
Tries: Baker, Hughes
Conversions: Hughes

Samoa | 5
Tries: Tuatagaloa
Conversions: N/A

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC London Sevens
v. Samoa - W 12-5
v. South Africa - Saturday, May 21 @ 8:42 a.m. ET
v. Canada - Saturday, May 21 @ 11:26 a.m. ET