LONDON, England – The Men’s Eagles Sevens started their London Sevens campaign with a 19-17 victory over France at Twickenham Stadium.
The Eagles played the first match of the tournament on an overcast morning at the headquarters of England Rugby. Last weekend the USA secured core status on the Sevens World Series for 2013-14 with a superb Plate title at Glasgow Sevens. Without the pressure of relegation, however, London Sevens will be an important test for the Eagles.
Colin Hawley took the first kick-off, but it was France who capitalized on an errant pass with prop forward Vincent Deniau busting through to touch down for his country. Terry Bouhraoua added the conversion, putting France up 7-0 after the opening minute.
Following the restart Shalom Suniula put France under pressure with a deep kick-through. The Eagles eventually took possession with an excellent Folau Niua tackle, forcing a French penalty for holding onto the ball on the ground. The ensuing attack looked promising, but the Eagles couldn’t convert inside the France 22-meter area. Another holding on penalty went the way of the French, and it was a fantastic break from Bouhraoua who raced through to score in the corner despite a great covering tackle from Nick Edwards.
The conversion wasn’t successful and France took a 12-0 lead with only a minute remaining in the first half.
The Eagles showed why they were so good last week in Scotland, and played patient controlled offense for the next six phases. Hawley made a nice half break with Andrew Durutalo providing support and linking with Matt Hawkins. The captain stretched it wide to Niua - who fed the powerful Edwards on the outside. The Eagles winger stepped into his defender and scored a brilliant try to put the USA back in the match. Halfback Suniula converted a difficult conversion, with the Eagles behind 12-7.
The Eagles began the final seven minutes with a superb break from playmaker Niua, who handed off two defenders and absorbed the sweeper’s tackle, off-loading to Hawkins. The ‘Polar Bear’ dived over in the corner to tie up the clash at 12-12.
Head Coach Alex Magleby made some tactical substitutes bringing in Brett Thompson for Hawley, and Luke Hume for Suniula.
With the momentum on the USA’s side, it was fast thinking from Durutalo who took a quick-tap penalty near the French 22. The big prop sold a dummy to Hume and streaked through for an excellent score, putting the Eagles in front for the first time in the match. Niua kicked the sideline conversion to the delight of his teammates, and the Eagles led 19-12.
France responded with a long break up the middle of the field, seeing stepper Bouhraoua slip through for his second try. The conversion missed with 37 seconds remaining.
The final passage of play was very impressive from the Eagles, maintaining composure and putting several phases together to run down the clock. Substitute Blaine Scully, in for Durutalo, booted the ball into touch as the hooter sounded, giving the Eagles a fantastic start to the London Sevens, winning 19-17 over 7th placed France.
“We started off quite slowly, but what we have been working on this season is to continue playing ourselves back into contention. That happened in Tokyo and Scotland, with us never letting up until the final whistle. Now the big task today is to continue improving from game to game,” said Colin Hawley.
Check out behind the scenes videos from London 7s, presented by Gilbert Rugby.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. France
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. France
Tries: Edwards, Hawkins, Durutalo
Conversions: Suniula, Niua
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Staff
Alex Magleby (Head Coach)
Andy Katoa (Manager)
Brian Green (Physio)
Hamish Kerr (Doctor)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | London Schedule
vs. Australia – 9:02 A.M. ET Saturday, May 11
vs. South Africa – 11:02 A.M. ET Saturday, May 11
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