Blitzboks hold off Eagles in Vancouver Semifinal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Men's Eagles Sevens' five-match winning streak came to an end in Sunday's HSBC Canada Sevens Cup Semifinal, a 14-10 defeat to HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series-leader South Africa.

Head Coach Mike Friday's squad was missing forward Danny Barrett, who began serving a three-match ban from a citation in the Quarterfinal victory against Argentina. The U.S. was kept from the HSBC USA Sevens Cup Final by South Africa a week ago, and will contest the bronze medal in Vancouver against Vegas champion Fiji at 8:52 p.m. ET. The team's last match until the seventh round of the Series will be streamed live online on World Rugby's Sevens Series website.


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Friday's side used the Semifinal's opening possession to reach South Africa's 22, where the teams traded knocks until Ben Pinkelman forced a loose ball at midfield with a physical play in the breakdown. Perry Baker started the counter attack with a break and Stephen Tomasin skipped a pass out to Andrew Durutalo. Martin Iosefo looped around his teammate to receive the try-scoring offload for a fourth-minute, 5-0, lead.

Pinkelman won possession from the ensuing restart only for Durutalo to be whistled from a set piece play. Durutalo was called for a defensive penalty as South Africa neared the attacking 22, as well, and Philip Snyman took the ball directly from the ruck in the seventh minute to level the match at 5-5. Cecil Afrika took his time with the touch-line conversion to add the extra two points.

Baker and South Africa's Siviwe Soyizwapi were kept from tries just ahead of the half-time whistle, keeping the score at the break 7-5 in South Africa's favor. The Eagles won a penalty for a lineout early in the second half, kicking off an attack at the Blitzboks' 10. Baker ducked out of a tackle to gain a few extra meters along one touch line before the Eagles swung it out to Durutalo on the other for the try in the corner and a 10-7 advantage.

Last weekend's Player of the Final, Rosko Specman, gave his team the final lead of the game with a burst of pace through the U.S. defensive line from the 11th-minute restart. With Baker subdued the South African sprinted 50 meters unabated for the 14-10 score line.

The Eagles kept ball in hand for the remaining two-and-a-half minutes in the game, offloading securely to keep the attack moving. They were able to show patience in the attack to force errors out of their opponent, but a final onslaught on the try line after time expired saw Durutalo held up in-goal by 2015 Player of the Year Werner Kok. The whistle blew to confirm the U.S.'s fate.


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In addition to ensuring they climb above Australia in the 2016-17 Series standings with the Bronze Final appearance, the Eagles could also reach the medal podium for the second consecutive week. Fiji was sent to the Canada Sevens Bronze Final by England, and will kick off against the U.S. at 8:52 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast live online via World Rugby's Sevens Series website.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. South Africa
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
13. Malon Al-Jiboori

South Africa | v. USA
1. Chris Dry
2. Philip Snyman
3. Dylan Sage
4. Zain Davids
5. Werner Kok
6. Siviwe Soyizwapi
7. Branco du Preez
8. Stephan Dippenaar
9. Stedman Gans
10. Cecil Afrika
11. Rosko Specman
12. Ruhan Nel
13. Sandile Ngcobo

Men's Eagles Sevens | 10
Tries: Iosefo, Durutalo
Conversions: N/A

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

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Canada Sevens
v. Japan - W 52-0
v. France - W 31-19
v. Australia - W 29-5
Cup QF v. Argentina - W 14-12
Cup SF v. South Africa - L 14-10
Bronze Final v. Fiji - Sunday, March 12 @ 8:52 p.m. ET