Eagles closer to Wellington Cup round with Samoa win

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The Men's Eagles Sevens rebounded from an HSBC Wellington Sevens-opening draw to defeat Samoa, 24-12, at Westpac Stadium.

Perry Baker and Martin Iosefo each scored their second tries of the tournament, the third leg of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The victory propels the Eagles into one of the top two places in Pool C ahead of a showdown with host nation New Zealand. The U.S.'s final match of pool play will kick off at 3:02 a.m. ET, and can be seen live on World Rugby's website.

The Eagles had carried early momentum in their draw with France only to fall into a 14-point hole by halftime. Head Coach Mike Friday's squad did not allow that to happen against Samoa, pouncing on its first opportunity. Andrew Durutalo helped win back possession from Folau Niua's opening restart, and a sleek run by Iosefo brought the team within striking distance. Danny Barrett helped the ball along its way to Baker near the middle of the field and the speedster strode away from the defender for the opening score.

Baker took a tumble on the ensuing restart as he contested for the ball, but found his feet after catching his breath. The Eagles drew a penalty in the Samoan scrum and ran a quick set play, which entailed Barrett holding off two tacklers along the touch line. He found Stephen Tomasin in support, and a quick pass to Niua saw the U.S. lead grow to 12-0.

A sixth-minute penalty against the Eagles in their own half gave Alamanda Motuga the room he needed to keep out of the reach of Durutalo and Niua, dotting down for Samoa's lone first-half try. An unforced error on the restart, however, gave the Eagles an attacking platform at midfield. Captain Madison Hughes took the initiative to turn the defense around with a direct run before popping it out to Baker. The wing had to work to corral the ball, but found a gap to beat his opposite number. Drawing another defender as he neared the try line, Baker found Niua for a try-inducing pass to Tomasin.

The 19-7 game slowed due to several penalties in the opening minutes of the second half, but the introductions of Carlin Isles and Matai Leuta provided a spark to the Eagles. Leuta's daring run from the touch line inside Samoa's half offered Tomasin room to run towards the corner. He offloaded to Durutalo as he was taken into touch, and Leuta got back to his feet to finish off the score.

The Eagles could have used a 24-7 win in a pool that is still open to three teams, but Samoa was playing for its position in Pool C, as well. Isles was unable to pull Joe Perez to the ground by the Samoan's shirt tail in the last minute, allowing the try to be awarded in the corner.

There were a still a few seconds remaining on the game clock as the teams returned to their places for the restart, but a knock quickly brought the game to an end at 24-12.

New Zealand reclaimed the No. 1 seed in Pool C with a 21-14 defeat of France, and will offer the Eagles their final challenge of pool play at 3:02 a.m. ET Saturday. The match will be shown live to viewers in the United States on World Rugby's Sevens Series website.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Samoa
1. Carlin Isles
2. Matai Leuta
3. Danny Barrett
5. Don Pati
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Connor Wallace-Sims
9. Stephen Tomasin
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo
13. Pago Haini

Samoa | v. USA
1. Tofatu Solia
2. Alamanda Motuga
3. Francis Ieremia
4. Lafaele Vaa
5. Malu Falaniko
6. Neria Fomai
7. Laaloi Leilua
8. Tomasi Alosio
9. Tila Mealoi
10. Samoa Toloa
11. Joe Perez
12. Siaosi Asofolau
13. Silao Nonu

Men's Eagles Sevens | 24
Tries: Baker, Niua, Iosefo, Leuta
Conversions: Hughes (2)

Samoa | 12
Tries: Motuga, Perez
Conversions: Mealoi

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Wellington Sevens
v. France - D 21-21
v. Samoa - W 24-12
v. New Zealand - Saturday, Jan. 28 @ 3:02 a.m. ET