U.S. falls short in South Africa clash in London

LONDON - The Men's Eagles Sevens were kept out of the try zone until late in the second half of their second match of HSBC London Sevens Saturday, a 14-10 defeat to South Africa.

Ben Leatigaga scored his second career HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series try as Mike Friday's squad put together a valiant comeback effort in the final minutes, but the loss sees South Africa take control of Pool A on two wins. The Eagles will finish pool play against Canada at 11:26 a.m. ET, with a win or draw enough to seal a spot in Sunday's Cup Quarterfinals.

The Eagles spent more than six minutes of the opening seven in their own half, with multiple turnovers costly against the second-ranked team on the circuit. Captain Madison Hughes lost control of the ball in the tackle after the U.S. won the opening restart, but Folau Niua hounded his opposite number in the set piece to win a put-in of his own. The Eagles shuffled the back line on the ensuing attack to try to get out from behind their 22, but a pass out to Perry Baker on the wing found touch rather than hands.

South Africa capitalized on the U.S. mistake with a try when Dylan Sage made a run at Baker and Martin Iosefo at the 22. He turned Baker around long enough to get a pass to Series-leading try-scorer Seabelo Senatla for a 7-0 lead.

The restart went the Eagles' way, as did a penalty during the first phase, but the lineout infringed upon the law for a South Africa tap near midfield. Baker stopped Senatla from doubling his tally in as many minutes with a chase tackle, forcing the wing into an offload that traveled forward.

The Eagles cleared the danger after winning the five-meter scrum and got the ball back when South Africa's lineout throw was not straight. Zack Test did his best to give the Eagles a boost going into halftime, running a line at a defensive gap to receive Niua's offload. The Eagle broke through untouched and ran diagonally across the pitch before he was tackled by Senatla. Having outrun his support, Test lost the ball forward in the tackle area to bring an end to the half.

South Africa doubled its lead in the first minute of the second half with the restart win, from which the U.S.'s opponent found Cecil Afrika in some space along the touch line. He had plenty of work to do to get the score, and beat three Eagle defenders with pace and strength to dot down in-goal.

An 11th-minute scrum five meters from their own try line saw the Eagles quickly move the ball from one touch line to the other, with Leatigaga timing his run and pass to Baker perfectly for the wing to get away from Senatla. Baker could not quite go 90 meters, however, as Afrika took him into touch just ahead of the South Africa 22.

The Eagles finally cut into the 14-0 deficit in the 13th minute after another lineout mistake by their opponents. Nate Augspurger showed Baker-like pace to get to the overthrown ball first, and sped through the defense to dot down in-goal. Keeping possession from the restart with a minute remaining, the Eagles kept at it. A penalty against South Africa in front of its uprights allowed Niua to work his magic, and Leatigaga received the ball wide for the second try and 14-10 final.

A result against Canada in the final match of pool play at 11:26 a.m. ET would see the Eagles through to the Cup Quarterfinals, where they can properly defend their London Sevens title from the end of last season. The match will be streamed live on World Rugby's website, while USA Rugby's Twitter account will provide live match updates.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. South Africa
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

South Africa | v. USA
1. Chris Dry
2. Philip Snyman
3. Tim Agaba
4. Ryan Kankowski
5. Francois Hougaard
6. Kyle Brown
7. Dylan Sage
8. Stephan Dippenaar
9. Rosko Specman
10. Cecil Afrika
11. Seabelo Senatla
12. Siviwe Soyizwapi

Men's Eagles Sevens | 10
Tries: Augspurger, Leatigaga
Conversions: N/A

South Africa | 14
Tries: Senatla, Afrika
Conversions: Afrika (2)

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC London Sevens
v. Samoa - W 12-5
v. South Africa - L 14-10
v. Canada - Saturday, May 21 @ 11:26 a.m. ET