LONDON, England – The Men’s Eagles Sevens team made history today in their final pool match at Twickenham with a remarkable 19-12 victory over South Africa.
South Africa, currently in 2nd place behind New Zealand on the HSBC Sevens World Series, has won the Las Vegas, Tokyo and Glagow Sevens events earlier this season. Before today, the closest the Eagles had come was a 15-14 loss against the Blitzbokke at Petco Park in San Diego in the 2009-10 season.
Alex Magleby, Head Coach, used the same starting seven that lost the nail-biting match against Australia 19-15 on the final play of the game.
South Africa gained possession from the kick-off, but resilient defense well inside the Eagles territory saw captain Matt Hawkins send Zack Test into space. The young veteran raced 60-meters drew the last defender and found Nick Edwards for the opening score of the match. Shalom Suniula knocked over the conversion and the Eagles went up 7-0.
Big Andrew Durutalo was a threat on defense, causing disruption at the breakdown. One of these steals gave Suniula some space as he fired a long pass to Hawkins out wide. Unfortunately the pass to his captain was too low, resulting in a hack through from the South Africans. Hawkins did an amazing job chasing the ball, but both players dove and Chris Dry touched it down just enough for the score. The halftime whistle sounded with the Eagles up 7-5 in this barn burner.
The second period began with a flurry from the USA. Suniula combined superbly with Hawkins taking the play to the halfway line. Suniula then deftly stabbed a well executed cross-kick for Durutalo - who drew his opposite man - sending the high flying Thompson over in the corner. Suniula was on fire, adding the conversion for a 14-5 lead over South Africa.
Thompson was involved again moments later, stretching the defense, and diving meters short of the tryline as he got tackled into touch. South Africa struck back with the 2011-12 Player of the Year, Cecil Africa, streaking through to setup W.J. Strydom for a vital score. Africa converted to make it 14-12 with three minutes remaining.
Magebly made three substitutes - bringing in Blaine Scully, Luke Home and Carlin Isles.
South Africa tried to break the Eagles defense, and eventually possession came the way of the Eagles in the final seconds. Zach Test timed a beautiful chip over the top for Isles as he scorched around the outside to seal a pulsating match and bring all 70,000 people at Twickenham to their feet
“We focussed on items we wanted to correct, and the players responded extremely well. South Africa is a very good team and the contact points were pretty vicious on both sides of the ball. To get the win is huge, some of the players have been on the other end of that against South Africa for many years. Tomorrow is another day for us, and we need to recover now and build on today’s performances,” said Magleby.
The historic 19-12 win puts the USA into the Cup Quarterfinals, for the third time in three tournaments. Australia, South Africa and the Eagles all tied with 7 points after the pool rounds, but the points difference means the Eagles take the second spot in those standings.
Earlier in the day, the Eagles defeated France 19-17, and lost 19-15 against Australia in the final movement of the match.
The Eagles will get a second chance to beat Australia at 6:12 a.m. ET in the Cup Quarterfinals.
Check out behind the scenes videos from London 7s, presented by Gilbert Rugby.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. South Africa
1 Carlin Isles (s)
2 Nick Edwards
3 Andrew Durutalo
4 Shalom Suniula
5 Zach Test
6 Matt Hawkins
7 Folau Niua
8 Sione Pila Taufa (s)
9 Luke Hume (s)
10 Blaine Scully (s)
11 Colin Hawley
12 Brett Thompson (s)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. South Africa
Tries: Edwards, Thompson, Isles
Conversions: Suniula (2)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Staff
Alex Magleby (Head Coach)
Andy Katoa (Manager)
Brian Green (Physio)
Hamish Kerr (Doctor)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | London Results
USA 19 France 17
USA 15 Australia 19
USA 19 South Africa 12
Men’s Eagles Sevens | London Pools
Pool A: South Africa, USA, Australia, France
Pool B: New Zealand, Wales, Canada, Kenya
Pool C: England, Argentina, Fiji, Samoa