Barrett's 'trick gives Eagles first win in Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Team USA Olympian Danny Barrett recorded a hat trick of tries Friday as the Men's Eagles Sevens opened their HSBC USA Sevens account with a 26-5 defeat of Samoa.

Folau Niua also dotted down for the U.S. in an early statement to the home fans at Sam Boyd Stadium, with viewers around the country watching live on national television on NBC Sports Network. Pool B play at the fifth round of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series continues Friday - with a final pool match to be played Saturday - as the Eagles play the invited team in the competition, Chile, at 11:36 p.m. ET. The match can be streamed live online via NBC Sports' digital platforms.

While team-leading try-scorer Perry Baker was kept quiet on the scoresheet on a smaller field surface than the Series is used to, Barrett - just behind him in the try-scoring table - surpassed his teammate with his 12th, 13th, and 14th tries.

"[Sam Boyd Stadium] has a narrow pitch; it's made for big guys," Barrett said after the victory. "If there's not going to be any space, we're going to create it ourselves."

Stephen Tomasin awaited the opening restart in the air before Samoa beat the Eagle to the ball. The Pacific Island opposition could not find a way through the U.S. defense, with a turnover in the breakdown quickly switching the direction of play. The home crowd welcomed the excitement from the turnover and was even more grateful for Folau Niua's bashing run at midfield. The match official played an advantage for a high tackle on Niua a phase later, and blew the whistle for an infringement 10 meters from the try line in the following phase. Barrett took the ball the required distance as if there were no defenders in front of him for a 7-0 lead after two minutes.

While Baker's name will not be found on the score sheet for the first game, his defensive work helped the Eagles pad their lead early while shutting down Samoa. His wrap tackle in Samoa's defensive end slowed play enough for Tomasin to disrupt the ruck and win a penalty. The Eagles kept the ball moving in front of the try line until it came to Barrett in the corner for a shoulder charge and his second try, extending the lead to 12-0.

Baker and Hughes combined on a defensive chase as Samoa passed the U.S. 10 to force a knock out of their opponent with time ticking down in the half. The Eagles won the scrum and sent the ball into touch to end the first frame.

A Samoan error gave the Eagles a put-in to start the second half, from which a set play saw the squad swing around Niua. The attack reached the 22 and Baker got even closer to the try line before Niua tiptoed around a defender to reach over the line for the score. Leading Samoa, 19-0, after 10 minutes did not mean the game was over, and penalty troubles allowed Samoa to take a tap and score less than a minute later through Tila Mealoi.

Reserves Ben Pinkelman and Maka Unufe made an impact in the late minutes of the game as the teams traded turnovers in a flurry of passes. A penalty against Samoa in the final minute gave the Eagles a chance to slow things down with a kick to touch, and Pinkelman's run against two defenders put his side within striking distance. Niua waited for a defender to close him down before popping a pass to Tomasin, whose quick, over-the-head pass to Barrett out wide resulted in the forward's hat trick and 26-5 final score.


View match stats on Trenarian.com


For the third consecutive year the Eagles have won their first pool match in front of their home crowd. In both instances, the U.S. ended the three-day tournament in the Bronze Medal Match. The squad will not overlook their final match of Day One against Chile, which is scheduled to kick off at 11:36 p.m. ET, before resting overnight for Saturday's Pool B finale against England.

"We have our family and friends here," Barrett said. "There's nothing like playing in front of our loved ones and supporters. Thanks to all of them for coming out on a Friday night.

"For us [our focus is] fixing what we need to do better; watching film, figuring out how they scored that try and how to stop it. Just like all of these other teams, Chile's here for a reason. They're going to be ready to put up a fight, but so will we."

HSBC USA Sevens can be viewed live in the United States on NBC Sports' digital platforms, which require a valid cable or satellite subscription. Live match updates will be provided on Twitter via USA Rugby's official account (@USARugby).

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Samoa
1. Pat Blair
2. Ben Pinkelman
3. Danny Barrett
4. Matai Leuta
5. Walt Elder
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Stephen Tomasin
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo

Samoa | v. USA
1. Afa Aiono
2. Faalemiga Selesele
3. Alamanda Motuga
4. Lafaele Vaa
5. Savelio Ropati
6. Neria Fomai
7. Laaloi Leilua
8. Danny Kayes
9. Tila Mealoi
10. Samoa Toloa
11. Joe Perez
12. Lester Sefo
13. Alex Samoa

Men's Eagles Sevens | 26
Tries: Barrett (3), Niua
Conversions: Hughes (3)

Samoa | 5
Tries: Mealoi
Conversions: N/A

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens
v. Samoa - W 26-5
v. Chile - Friday, March 3 @ 11:36 p.m. ET
v. England - Saturday, March 4 @ 7:24 p.m. ET