Coach Magleby hopeful for improved Eagles performance in Vegas
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The USA Rugby Men’s Eagles Sevens team is currently preparing for the fifth round of the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series in Las Vegas, Nev., after returning from the Hertz Sevens in Wellington, New Zealand. Despite a late try by Maka Unufe against eventual Cup-winner England to tie the match, the Eagles only made it to the Shield Semifinals, where they lost to Wales.
The Eagles had the majority of possession in each match and were within a single try of victory – except for the match against Fiji – and came away from New Zealand with a 0-1-4 record.
The Eagles showed resiliency in the England draw to come back and salvage a point in a tough pool. Unufe’s solo effort to level the match made it to the IRB’s Seven of the Best highlight video from the Hertz Sevens. Unufe missed out on day two in Wellington after being injured on day one, however, and will miss the next round in Las Vegas.
“[The try against England] was a thing of individual beauty,” Eagles Sevens Head Coach Alex Magleby said of Unufe’s tying try with time expired. Unufe will be replaced by Rocco Mauer in Las Vegas.
Unufe’s absence on day two was felt, but Magleby said other players stepped up to fill the void. Carlin Isles, who was featured prominently by many news outlets throughout the week leading up to Wellington, could not find a way to get around the extra defender other teams threw in his path.
“There’s a lot of expectation on him,” he said. “Suddenly everyone thinks now that every time he touches the ball it’s going to be a hundred-meter run. That’s not the case. He has to stretch the defense, get us up field, and recycle possession if it’s not a line break, which is fine. If he’s done that then he’s done his job successfully.”
Isles may not have scored in Wellington, but Blaine Scully, who returned to the team after an injury layoff, scored a try in the Shield Semifinal match against Wales. Andrew Durutalo also returned from injury and participated in four of the Eagles’ five games.
“I thought they did well,” Magleby said. “When they first got in, they were both hungry for that first contact. Both of them could’ve passed the ball rather than gone into contact, but since they hadn’t been playing for so long, they were looking for that touch a bit and wanted to be involved. That will come with time. It’s good to have them back.”
On the same day the men finished their match against Wales, the Women’s Eagles Sevens team made it to the Cup Final at the Houston Sevens, but lost to England. Magleby’s team is looking to replicate the crowd pleasing performance given by the women and hoping to gain more points in Las Vegas than the one they gained in Wellington.
“We look at it as returning home and using the energy of our home crowd to do good things,” Magleby said. “That’s what our home crowd deserves; they deserve to see the team that represents them playing with a lot of passion and to execute well. And we look forward to delivering.”
The Eagles are again paired with Spain in Las Vegas. Their opening match in Wellington was a 5-10 loss to the European side. Samoa and Australia, who beat Scotland to win the Plate, will also be joining Group D.
“We start with Australia, who I think is playing some of the best rugby right now on the circuit,” Magleby said. “I think we have to do well against Australia, learn from that game, then do well against Samoa, then we can face Spain.”
The Eagles will begin their Las Vegas Sevens outing against Australia at 6:34 P.M. PT on Friday, February 8, at Sam Boyd Stadium.