Sixth in Sydney, Eagles move to eighth in Series standings

 Michael Lee / KLC fotos

SYDNEY, Australia - The Men's Eagles Sevens ran into a Fiji team ready for a Cup Final in the HSBC Sydney7s Fifth-Place Playoff Sunday, losing to the reigning HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champion and Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games gold medalist, 35-12.

Head Coach Mike Friday's side trailed by just two points after seven minutes at Allianz Stadium, but did not have the legs with a short bench to grab a late lead. The Eagles gain 12 points from the fourth leg and a combined 17 from the back-to-back weekends in Oceania for a season total of 35. The Series will resume in Las Vegas March 3-5 when the men join the Women's Eagles Sevens - runners-up in Sydney on the weekend - at HSBC USA Sevens.

The Eagles have been one of the better restart-possessing teams on the circuit in three or so tournaments, but Fiji is similarly skilled with the kickoffs. Fiji missed the chance to grab the opening restart, but got the ball back by taking U.S. captain Madison Hughes into touch a few meters from the try line. The throw was taken quickly and, despite Carlin Isles and Stephen Tomasin tracking back to ensure the break did not result in a try, Nemani Nagusa followed the run to open the scoring at 7-0.

Tomasin capped off the Eagles' next attack with a grounding in-goal by supporting Hughes and Martin Iosefo, who kept the ball moving quickly in a tight space in front of the posts. Hughes converted the try for a level, 7-7, match.

There is only so much a kicker can control on a restart with a heavy wind swirling in the stadium, and Folau Niua's fifth-minute kickoff was held back from the 10-meter line. Pressure in the breakdown forced Fiji into misplaying the ball on the ground, but the Eagles returned the favor with a knock of their own for Nagusa to restore the seven-point lead at 14-7.

Wind affected the Fijian kickoffs, as well, and a tap at midfield allowed Niua to send Durutalo through a gap. Tomasin supported his teammate and was taken to the ground with a high tackle within 10 meters of the try line, where Niua's quick tap led Danny Barrett over for the try. The half ended with a 14-12 score in favor of Fiji.

The Eagles were left chasing Fiji in the second half, with Viriviri finishing off an attack given to his team from a knock and Nacanieli Lababala running nearly half of the length of the field from a failed U.S. kick to bring the score to 28-12 by the 11th minute. Chris Coyle earned his international debut with the Men's Eagles Sevens in the dying minutes but allowed a lineout throw to pass over him for Jasa Veremalua to bring the final score to 35-12.

Match times and the pool draw for the fifth round of the 2016-17 season will be known later, though the Eagles will fare better with a sixth-place finish in Sydney.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Fiji
1. Carlin Isles
2. Matai Leuta
3. Danny Barrett
4. Chris Coyle
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

Fiji | v. USA
1. Nemani Nagusa
2. Jasa Veremalua
3. Sevuloni Mocenacagi
4. Nacanieli Labalaba
5. Kalione Nasoko
6. Emosi Mulevoro
7. Osea Kolinisau
8. Alivereti Veitokani
9. Jerry Tuwai
10. Mesulame Kunavula
11. Joeli Lutumailagi
12. Vatemo Ravouvou
13. Samisoni Viriviri

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

Fiji | 35
Tries: Nagusa (2), Viriviri, Labalaba, Veremalua
Conversions: Kolinisau (2), Ravouvou

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Sydney7s
v. Argentina - W 22-19
v. Canada - W 31-19
v. Russia - L 17-14
Cup QF v. South Africa - L 21-10
Fifth-Place SF v. Wales - W 19-10
Fifth-Place Playoff v. Fiji - L 35-12