Men's Sevens
15 0
Fiji
29 17
Men's Sevens  @ Cape Town Stadium
December 9, 20187:44 pm SAST
Cape Town Sevens

Men's Eagles Sevens earn second-consecutive silver medal, claim first place in World Series rankings

CAPE TOWN, RSA. - The Men's Eagles Sevens have made history. Despite losing the HSBC Cape Town Sevens Cup Final 29-15 to reigning Olympic Champion Fiji, the Team USA men have earned their second-consecutive silver medal and reached a first-place ranking in the current HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019 standings. Both achievements -- back-to-back medals and No. 1 placing -- have occurred for the first time in the history of the program. 

Following the conclusion of the tournament, the Eagles Sevens saw both Captain Madison Hughes and Danny Barrett named to the HSBC Cape Town Sevens Dream Team. And, moreover, Barrett also earned the UL Mark of Excellence award for his groundbreaking performances throughout the competition. 

After a notable win over England and a victory that rectified last week's Cup Final loss to New Zealand, Head Coach Mike Friday and his team fell prey to critical mistakes that allowed the Fijians to walk away with gold. The Eagles Sevens went down fighting, however, scoring three tries in the last two minutes of play to capture any margin of opportunity. And, though it was the 2016 Olympic champion who emerged on top -- the Americans have paved a remarkable road to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. 

"We are really disappointed with our first half performance where we gift wrapped 17 early Christmas present points through uncharacteristic errors. A team like Fiji will make you pay," said Head Coach Mike Friday. "I was really pleased with the response by the group in the second half but we just set ourselves up with too much to do and another opportunity to win a gold was lost.

"As a whole, I am hugely pleased for the group that all their hard work this preseason has positioned them as Number One in the World Series for the first time in USA Rugby history. And while we are only two tournaments in, this illustrates the intent of the boys and is a good start in our quest to break the Top 4 and obtain Olympic qualification. We will now get home, recover and enjoy our time with loved ones before resuming the challenge of the next stop in New Zealand."

The Cup Final began with a couple penalties on both sides of the ball until Perry Baker broke open on the right flank and was pushed to touch. Winning the ball back, the United States continued to drive forward until Fiji won a turnover and spun it back around for the opening score, 5-0. 

Another Perry Baker run in the same space was stopped on a tackle where a group of knock-ons gave Fiji the edge in the scrum. With both teams buzzing to get possession and run away with the game, penalties were transforming play into a choppy collection of misfires for the USA. 

On attack, a messy Eagles Sevens pass was intercepted by Kalione Nasoko who turned right back around and put another seven points on the board, 12-0. Then, a dropped ball by Perry Baker gave Vilimoni Botitu another easy pluck to increase the shutout, 17-0. 

At the half, fans around the world were aching to see the return of the United States team they had witnessed through the weekend. But when the next half began, another penalty gave Fiji a lineout and allowed Sevuloni Mocenacagi to slip through the defense to make it 22-0. 

Focused on the time remaining -- regardless of the indication on the scoreline -- Eagles Sevens' Ben Pinkelman drove hard along the wing and powered his way through Fijian defenders to give the USA their first try. In a twist of events, a sour grubber kick by the Americans was next recovered by Fiji who answered back almost immediately to increase their lead 29-5. 

Not ready to give up, Ben Pinkelman took the ball inside the five meter-mark and nearly bear-crawled his way to reach over the line for another. Then with one final play to go, Carlin Isles cruised over in spectacular fashion to give the United States five more before the end, 29-15. 

As Head Coach Mike Friday says, "you don't win silver, you only lose gold." But the Eagles Sevens second-consecutive silver wasn't just about winning or losing a certain medal. It was about consistently challenging the world's greatest teams and proving, match after match, that this is an echelon where USA belongs.

The Men's Eagles Sevens will return to the Olympic Training Site in Chula Vista for a few week break before preparation for the third stop of the season, HSBC Hamilton Sevens, begins. The tournament is set to run January 26-27 (local time) with the USA facing England, Samoa and the invitational team in Pool B. 

Men's Eagles Sevens Staff

Head Coach | Mike Friday
Assistant Coach | Anthony "Rocky" Roques
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Matt Long
Athletic Trainer | Brian Green
Team Manager | Scott Novack

HSBC Cape Town Sevens Schedule & Results

Pool B | Broadcast LIVE on ESPN+

vs. Japan | 54-0 (W)
vs. Spain | 38-17 (W)
vs. Argentina | 31-14 (W)

Cup Quarterfinals
vs England | 19-12 (W)

Cup Semifinals
vs New Zealand | 7-31 (W)

Cup Final
vs Fiji | 29-15 (L)