Hosts send Eagles to Wellington Challenge Trophy bracket

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - It took a last-second try from New Zealand in the final match of Pool C at HSBC Wellington Sevens to end the Men's Eagles Sevens' hopes for Cup qualification, with the 24-12 result sending the U.S. to the Challenge Trophy bracket.

The Eagles had to win or draw against New Zealand after France upended their point-differential advantage with a big win against Samoa, and nearly pulled level as the clocked ticked towards zero. Head Coach Mike Friday's squad will face Japan at 5:22 p.m. ET in Saturday's Challenge Trophy Quarterfinals. Viewers in the United States can watch all of the action from Westpac Stadium live on World Rugby's website.

The home team for the weekend was given first possession deep in its own half when Folau Niua's restart went long rather than 10 meters. New Zealand tested the Eagles' defensive mettle with a few methodic prods, and was able to stay on the offensive when Perry Baker tapped a pass into touch at midfield. The All Blacks Sevens did not get far from the spot of the set piece, however, with a looping pass intercepted by Danny Barrett.

Captain Madison Hughes did not let the counter attack stall with a tackle, popping the ball up to an onrushing Niua. Martin Iosefo then combined with Stephen Tomasin outside the try line for the opening score and 7-0 lead.

New Zealand quickly reached the U.S. 10 from the fourth-minute restart and debutant Vilimoni Koroi dummied his way past Tomasin for the reply try. The Eagles reclaimed the ensuing restart and Iosefo weaved through two defenders before setting his sights on the try line. He was stopped just short of the in-goal area with a well-timed tackle, but his offload to Baker was lost forward.

Tim Mikkelson was sent to the sin bin moments later as he chased a clearance kick from the scrum, falling on Niua as the Eagle was on the ground. The U.S. capitalized, with the set play setting up Barrett with a three-on-one near the corner. Successfully lowering the shoulder into an opponent twice, Barrett wrestled his way over the line to give the Eagles a 12-7 lead at the break.

New Zealand was able to keep the Eagles from attacking territory before Baker chased Koroi down at midfield. The Kiwi's pass went high, and Baker jumped into touch trying to keep it in play. Referee Craig Joubert halted play as Baker was slow to get up, eventually leading to Carlin Isles replacing the winger.

Isaac Te Tamaki leveled the score in the 10th minute before the conversion gave New Zealand a 14-12 lead, and a Mikkelson quick tap from an Eagles penalty on the restart was finished off by New Zealand's all-time leading try-scorer.

Down by seven at 19-12 with less than two minutes remaining, the Eagles were given a final shot at reaching the Cup Quarterfinals. Despite Matai Leuta's pass from the touch line forcing the Eagles into defending a scrum, Niua won possession back in the breakdown not far from his own try line. The U.S. swung the ball wide before bring it back to Isles, but the speedster did not have enough room along the touch line for a run. The ball was ripped out of Leuta's hands as he fell to the ground in the tackle, and Te Tamaki rounded the defense to bring the final score to 24-12.

The 12-point loss brings the Eagles to even in regards to point differential, while France finished with a positive differential of 16 points. The third-place seeding in Pool C sets up the Eagles for a Challenge Trophy Quarterfinal encounter with Japan, scheduled for 5:22 p.m. ET Saturday. The match will be available to watch on World Rugby's website.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. New Zealand
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

New Zealand | v. USA
1. Scott Curry
2. Tim Mikkelson
3. Tone Ng Shiu
4. DJ Forbes
5. Dylan Collier
6. Vilimoni Koroi
7. Iopu Iopu-Aso
8. Rocky Khan
9. Sherwin Stowers
10. Regan Ware
11. Isaac Te Tamaki
12. Sione Molia
13. Trael Joass

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

New Zealand | 24
Tries: Koroi, Mikkelson, Te Tamaki (2)
Conversions: Koroi (2)
Discipline: Mikkelson (Yellow)

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Wellington Sevens
v. France - D 21-21
v. Samoa - W 24-12
v. New Zealand - L 24-12
Challenge Trophy QF v. Japan - Saturday, Jan. 28 @ 5:22 p.m. ET