Eagles finish pool play with 14-7 win against Tonga

Eagles finish pool play with 14-7 win against Tonga

GOLD COAST, Australia – Zack Test and Miles Craigwell each scored a try for the Men’s Eagles Sevens in their 14-7 win against Tonga, each side’s last Pool A match at Gold Coast Sevens.

The Eagles will start in the Bowl Quarterfinals at 8:30 P.M. ET Saturday, Oct. 12, against Scotland.

Head Coach Matt Hawkins gave USA Rugby AIG Collegiate All-Americans Pat Blair and Stephen Tomasin starts in the final pool match, and each made an impact for the Eagles.

Test almost scored in the second minute, but a low pass caused his diving play over the try line to be deemed a knock. The Eagles regained possession just outside the try line and tried multiple times to get through the last line of defense. Hawkins could have taken it himself through a defender but decided to pass, catching his teammate off-guard, resulting in another knock.

Tonga’s Selu Vailea opened the scoring after breaking through from 10 meters outside his own try zone. Folau Niua could not make the final tackle and Vailea set up Siale Talakai with an easy conversion in front of the posts for a 7-0 lead.

Niua attempted to make up for the try by sending a grubber kick into the try zone, and Nick Edwards almost got to it before the Tongan defender. It took an official review, but Tonga escaped unscathed with a 7-0 halftime lead.

In the 10th minute, Edwards broke a tackle to get within 20 meters of the try line, but was taken down unsuspectingly while looking to make a pass. He went to the ground awkwardly and the referee stopped play to make sure he did not require assistance off the field. Upon the restart, Test received the ball out wide and sped into the try zone. Niua’s conversion tied the match 7-7 with plenty of time remaining.

Less than two minutes later, Craigwell, coming off of the bench as a substitute, took the ball from the ruck caused by a tough run from Niua and scored the match-winning try for the Eagles. Niua successfully converted and the Eagles finished their Pool A campaign in third with a 1-2 record.

“When we did have the ball we looked good,” Hawkins said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t keep it. There’s still a long way to go. We’ll get there.”

The Eagles will open day two against Scotland in the Bowl Quarterfinals. Follow @USARugby on Twitter for live updates from 8:30 P.M. ET.

Men's Eagles Sevens | v. Tonga
1. Carlin Isles
2. Pat Blair
3. Matt Hawkins
4. Ryan Matyas
5. Zack Test
6. Brett Thompson
7. Folau Niua
8. Jack Halalilo
9. Miles Craigwell
10. Tai Enosa
11. Nick Edwards
12. Stephen Tomasin

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
v. Scotland - Saturday, October 12 - 8:30 P.M. ET


Men's Eagles Sevens | 14
Tries: Test, Craigwell
Conversions: Niua (2)

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Comments (1)

  • Guest (Jeremy Lister)

    That was a very kind article, from a rational perspective it looked much worse…. After the announcement that Matt Hawkins would assume the dual role of player/ coach many expressed concerns that it would never work. The performance of the Eagle 7’s yesterday bitterly proved that the concerns were well founded. Simply, it is impossible to successfully balance those two roles, and it is despicable that USA Rugby would ask, or allow a player like Matt Hawkins to ruin his credibility by attempting the task. In less than one year Alex Magleby made a tremendous difference in the way the National team played rugby. He focused entirely on the duties of a coach (giving guidance and instruction from a knowledgeable outside perspective, etc...). In fact, it is instructive to note that when Alex felt like he could not devote his entire focus on his coaching duties, he asked to be released from that duty (an attribute Matt Hawkins should emulate).
    USA Rugby simply has no time to experiment with a system that “might work” All of the other core teams are improving (Spain, Scotland, and Fiji, along with others, are good examples…). If Matt Hawkins wants to remain a player, then USA Rugby must make finding a competent coach to assume the duties of head coach its number one priority. Failure to do so will result in the type of performance that we witnessed yesterday. On a side note: it is interesting to note that the two men that saved the US from utter defeat “rode the pine” for the majority of the matches. Further, Matt Hawkins may have led the team in unforced errors, followed closely by Zack Test…. These two men are tremendous players. They both preformed amazingly last season. What is the difference? The performance of the Eagle 7’s yesterday is an insult to the progress the team made last season. It is an insult to the entire rugby community of the United States. It’s about time for USA Rugby to follow the example rest of the rugby world and procure a competent, focused, and solely dedicated head coach for the 7’s National Team. A coach/ player system is just too big of a handicap for any team at that level to overcome.