Fiji edge Eagles in thriller
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Fiji breathed a huge sigh of relief as Folau Niua’s fulltime conversion attempt drifted just outside the poles, giving the Pacific Islanders a narrow 21-19 victory.
The Eagles were without their captain Matt Hawkins, who was cited and banned for one match for a tip tackle during the 22-7 pool win over Spain.
Early in the match the USA found themselves behind their own tryline, but another excellent Blaine Scully kick downfield rolled perfectly and allowed a flying Carlin Isles to tackle the sweeper and scoop up the ball. The Eagles swarmed to help Isles, but were held-up over the line.
Moments later Zach Test stole a Fijian lineout and fended two tacklers to bust through for the opening score. Nuia brilliantly kicked the sideline conversion to make it 7-0 to the Eagles.
For the next three minutes the Eagles defense was outstanding, including a Colin Hawley spot tackle which prevented a certain try. But with plenty of possession, Fiji finally struck back with a great Jasa Veremalua try, making it 7-7 at halftime.
In the second half the Eagles attack looked promising, with Scully fending off two Fijian defenders and dragging a third, creating excellent forward momentum. However, the Pacific Islanders managed to turn the ball over and move it wide for another try, this time by Jone Vota . Joji Baleviani Raqamate kicked his second successful conversion.
The excitement continued at Sam Boyd Stadium as Test made a break out wide. He patiently waited for support from starter Andrew Durutalo, who knocked over two Fijian defenders. From that build-up, super substitute Luke Hume side-stepped his way through for a fantastic score. Niua added the conversion to tie it up 14-14.
Fiji came back strongly and stretched the Eagles defense, sending Vota over for his second try. Baleviani Raqamate added the vital conversion for his team’s 21-14 lead.
With the stadium hooter sounding, signifying the final play of the game, the Eagles kept possession and worked through phases. The stadium then erupted as Hume received a beautiful long pass from Niua and dove over in the corner for a sensational try.
With time up, it all went down to Niua’s sideline conversion attempt. Both teams held their breath as the ball sailed across the face of the poles, drifting wide. It wasn’t to be for the Eagles, but it was a thrilling encounter with one of the great Rugby Sevens nations.
“Credit to the boys. Three of our tries to three of Fiji’s tries. The effort was there, and they are playing smarter rugby. It was good to see,” Magleby said after the match. More post-game comments here.
The Eagles will play Canada at 10:48 a.m. PST on Sunday, February 10 in the Plate semi final. NBC Sports and Universal Sports will be broadcasting the tournament. Check here for times.
USA Men’s Eagles Sevens | Las Vegas Sevens
- Andrew Durutalo
- Nick Edwards
- Jack Halalilo
- Matt Hawkins (Captain)
- Colin Hawley
- Luke Hume
- Carlin Isles
- Rocco Mauer
- Folau Niua
- Blaine Scully
- Shalom Suniula
- Zach Test
Eagles Schedule | Las Vegas Sevens
vs. Canada (Plate semi final) – 10:48 A.M. PT Sunday, February 10
Eagles Results | Las Vegas Sevens
- USA 7 Australia 26
- USA 7 Samoa 12
- USA 22 Spain 7
- USA 19 Fiji 21