Bronze runner-up Eagles move up in Series standings

 Martin Seras Lima

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Perry Baker scored his 100th career HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series try in the Men's Eagles Sevens' 28-24 loss to Fiji in Sunday's HSBC Canada Sevens Bronze Final.

The Eagles improve their 2016-17 season standing to fifth, gaining 15 points from their second trip to a tournament's top four this year. Head Coach Mike Friday's squad will return to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center to prepare for the Series' continuation at Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens April 7-9.

Following its second loss of the tournament - a 40-7 thrashing at the hands of eventual Cup-winner England - Fiji jumped on the match-opening restart to control the proceedings. The Eagles held a strong defensive line but were turned around when Waisea Nacuqu chipped the ball behind Folau Niua. The Fijian had the pace to run onto the ball and score, 7-0.

The Eagles responded immediately after Martin Iosefo's evasion of three tackles at midfield. His offload to captain Madison Hughes kicked off a chain of passes to Baker for career No. 99. Hughes' conversion from the touch line was just wide, however, keeping Fiji's lead at 7-5.

Fiji was not afforded simple gaps for its preferred style of play, as the U.S. defense swarmed ball-carriers with one-on-one technique. The team wearing black was able to move forward through phases, though, and won a set piece at the Eagles' 22. The ball was sent out to Osea Kolinisau, who waited for Samisoni Viriviri's switch run for the offload and try.

Before the end of the half, Ben Pinkelman won the ball in a midfield lineout. Iosefo ran towards two defenders and offloaded to Baker in contact, and the wing had pace to outrun the sweeper for his 100th career try. His ninth of the weekend brought the halftime score to 14-12 in the favor of Fiji.

Fiji struck an early blow in the second half using the first possession, maintaining ball in hand close to the try line. Masivesi Dakuwaqa had a free hand to send the ball off to Vatemo Ravouvou, who extended Fiji's lead to 21-12 with the try and successful conversion.

Baker did not record a second hat trick at BC Place Stadium, but set up Maka Unufe's first try of the Bronze Final with a spectacular mazing run through the defense. Spinning away in one direction before reversing at midfield, the speedster offloaded to Niua as he was finally wrangled for quick hands to the try-scorer, 21-19.

Unufe won possession in the breakdown in the 12th minute and the Eagles again looked to move the ball quickly. A final offload to the wing was tipped backwards by Mesulame Kunavula, however, for Setareki Bituniyata to run to the try zone. The touch-line conversion by Ravouvou was successful for a two-score, 28-19, lead.

Reserve Matai Leuta gained meters with a physical run down the touch line after Fiji turned over the restart, and Unufe again burst through the gain line to dot down in the corner. With fewer than 10 seconds remaining on the game clock, the Eagles opted out of taking the conversion, but failed to secure the ball for sustained possession on the ensuing restart for a 28-24 final.


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The U.S. takes sole possession of fifth place in the Series standings - five points clear of sixth-place Australia - from a 4-2 weekend in Vancouver. Baker was also selected to the tournament Dream Team.Friday's squad will next compete on the Series in Hong Kong April 7-9. Pool matchups will be decided by World Rugby.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Fiji
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

Fiji | v. USA
1. Nemani Nagusa
2. Apisai Domolailai
3. Kalione Nasoko
4. Setareki Bituniyata
5. Masivesi Dakuwaqa
6. Mesulame Kunavula
7. Osea Kolinisau
8. Waisea Nacuqu
9. Jerry Tuwai
10. Samisoni Viriviri
11. Alivereti Veitokani
12. Vatemo Ravouvou
13. Nacanieli Labalaba

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

Fiji | 28
Tries: Nacuqu, Viriviri, Ravouvou, Bituniyata
Conversions: Ravouvou (4)

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 - L 28-24