LONDON, England – The Men’s Eagles Sevens team proved that yesterday’s historic victory over South Africa wasn’t a one-off. The Eagles scored four tries to defeat the three-time Series Plate winners 22-5 in the Plate Semifinals at Twickenham.
The Eagles were awarded a penalty shortly after the opening kick-off, and it was taken quickly by Shalom Suniula. The scrumhalf, who has had a superb weekend, threw an excellent wide pass to Zach Test who scorched through in the opening 35 seconds. Suniula’s radar was on target with the sideline conversion, making it 7-0.
South Africa came back with a strong passage of play with Cecil Africa almost clearing the defense, but Nick Edwards chased him down and stopped the neary-try; however the next Eagles penalty saw Stephan Dippenaar break free, touching down in the corner. The Eagles led 7-5 with two minutes left in the half.
The USA withstood a dangerous South African attack from the restart, setting up a scrum on their 22-meter. Captain Matt Hawkins took possession, followed by a great break from Brett Thompson. The youngster managed to get around the sweeper giving it to the supporting runner Andrew Durutalo. The prop forward had the presence of mind to absorb a tackle as he popped the ball to a dancing Suniula who then scored the Eagles second try. The Twickenham crowd came alive as the Eagles led 12-5 at the break.
The Blitzbokke begin strongly with a breakout from inside their half as the Eagles desperately stopped the pressure. A tactical substitution was made by Head Coach Alex Magleby, bringing on Colin Hawley for Thomspon.
The Eagles were awarded a penalty inside their half, and playmaker Folau Niua found Test on a short angle. Test broke through and looked to be wrapped up by the cover defense, but it was a magnificent piece of strength and determination that allowed the USA’s top try scorer to race away in the corner. Test’s try stretched the Eagles ahead 17-5.
Both Paul Treu, South Africa’s Head Coach, and Magleby brought further substitutes onto the field. Joining the Eagles team was Luke Hume, Blaine Scully and Carlin Isles.
South Africa tried to penetrate the American defense, but an 83% tackle completion ratio meant there wasn’t much the Blitzbokke could do in the remaining minutes. A turn-over in possession saw Isles move the ball to his captain - who had an open tryline in front of him. It was fitting that the man they call the ‘Polar Bear’ Hawkins touched down a memorable try against his country of birth, securing a 22-5 win for the Eagles, and their third Plate Final in-a-row.
“Since Japan we have realized what we can do and the potential we can have in our squad. Right now we are just exploiting that,” said a smiling Hawkins.
Head Coach Alex Magebly reflected on the team's ability to come back from a tough loss to Australia in the first match of the day.
“What really impressed me after the heart-breaking loss to Australia this morning, was the way in which the team responded. Teams before this might have packed up their bags, but this group really wanted to keep playing and take on South Africa.”
The Eagles squad has been one of the teams to watch at the London Sevens.
“Great job by our leadership. Matt [Hawkins] has done superbly with this squad, and Zach [Test] as well. Shalom [Suniula] had one of his best games for the Eagles yet. I’m very impressed with the squad, and now we get another chance at a trophy.”
The Eagles will now face Fiji in the Plate Final with the match kicking-off at 11:59 AM E.T.
Watch behind the scenes videos from London 7s, presented by Gilbert.
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 (s)
12 Brett Thompson
Men’s Eagles Sevens | vs. South Africa - Plate Semifinals
Tries: Test (2), Suniula, Hawkins
Conversions: Suniula (1)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Staff
Alex Magleby (Head Coach)
Andy Katoa (Manager)
Brian Green (Physio)
Hamish Kerr (Doctor)
Men’s Eagles Sevens | London Results & Fixtures
USA 19 France 17
USA 15 Australia 19
USA 19 South Africa 12
USA 19 Australia 24 (Cup Semifinal)
USA 22 South Africa 5 (Plate Semifinal)
USA vs. Fiji (Plate Final) 11:59 AM E.T.