GLASGOW, Scotland – The Men’s Eagles Sevens showed more consistency and resiliency than in previous rounds of the IRB Sevens World Series in keeping up with Wales at Glasgow Sevens Saturday, but succumbed to a last-second try to fall to 1-1 with the 26-21 loss.
The Eagles must now win their last pool match against France to make it into the Cup Quarterfinals, which would give them a better chance of finishing ahead of Scotland in the IRB Sevens World Series table. If the Eagles gain more points than the tournament hosts, they will not have to partake in the requalifying tournament at London Sevens next weekend.
“That next game’s going to be critical for us,” Head Coach Alexander Magleby said. “We’ve got to win, we’ve got to make tackles and keep possession. We’ve got to take care of ourselves [and not worry about Scotland].”
Magleby used the same starting seven from the 48-5 win against Russia earlier in the day. Wales harried the Eagles at every possession, causing an early knock on by Shalom Suniula. With possession in the second minute, Wales steadily gained ground and capitalized on a gap left by Colin Hawley’s tackle to find space for an Adam Warren try. Gareth Davies’ conversion opened the scoring to 7-0.
The Eagles needed a quick response and got it a minute later from hat-trick hero Nick Edwards. Fresh from scoring three tries against Russia, Edwards collected a pass from an Eagles scrum at their own 22 and ran past the Wales defense down the left sideline for the try. Suniula’s kick appeared to hang just wide, but was awarded the conversion to level the score 7-7.
Wales continued to push the Eagles on offense and moved up the field after a few Eagles tackles for another try. Davies found space to touch down in the try zone and converted his own score for the 14-7 lead.
With under 30 seconds remaining in the half, Wales elected to kick the restart into touch to run down the clock. Though they found it hard to get out of their own 22, the Eagles did not give up and were rewarded with a try by Zach Test, the 70th of his career. Another Suniula conversion tied the match once again.
The two long tries in the first half gave the Eagles hope, but more offensive possession was needed. Blaine Scully won the ball for the Eagles from the restart and Test almost added his 71st career try, but his offload in contact was deemed to have travelled forward.
Wales gave the Eagles an opportunity within ten yards of the try zone by committing a knock on, but the Eagles could not break the defense and Hawkins was finally brought into touch for Welsh possession.
A hard tackle by Scully, who is seeing action this weekend in Glasgow for the first time since Vegas Sevens, forced a turnover and created an opening for Edwards to score his fifth try in two matches for the lead. Suniula added the conversion to make the score 21-14.
Wales replied immediately from the restart from Owen Williams, who caught the kickoff and ran into the try zone unopposed. The Eagles retained the slim lead at 21-19, however, as Davies’ conversion missed wide.
With two minutes to go, the Eagles were meticulous in their ball handling and almost extended the lead before a deliberate penalty from Wales within ten yards of the area.
Eventually, Davies regained possession for Wales, but found himself without support at midfield, a result of an efficient Eagles defense. Wales managed to reach the 22 with ten seconds left and succeeded in pinning Test in a two-on-one. James Davies ran up the sideline and beat a sweeping Matt Hawkins to the corner for the match-winning try.
“We confused effort with accomplishment there at times on attack and defense,” Magleby said, “making some curious decisions on both sides of the ball. We have one more match to go today - a great opportunity vs. France. We have control over our destiny at this stage with both teams sitting at one win and one loss.”
Scotland defeated Portugal in its first pool match, adding pressure to the Eagles’ last match against France. Scotland must still play England and New Zealand, but a Cup Quarterfinals berth for the Eagles would ease any tensions on Sunday.
Follow the Eagles’ match against France at 1:37 P.M. ET with the Official USA Rugby Twitter account (@USARugby).
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. Wales
1 Carlin Isles (s)
2 Nick Edwards
3 Andrew Durutalo (s)
4 Shalom Suniula
5 Zach Test
6 Matt Hawkins
7 Folau Niua
8 Jack Halalilo (s)
9 Luke Hume (s)
10 Blaine Scully
11 Colin Hawley
12 Brett Thompson (s)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. Wales
Tries: Edwards (2), Test
Conversions: Suniula (3)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Glasgow Sevens
vs. France - 1:37 P.M. ET Saturday, May 4