LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Folau Niua’s sideline conversion sent the Sam Boyd Stadium into a frenzy as the USA Eagles defeated Spain 22-7 to make history and reach the Cup quarterfinals at the Las Vegas Sevens tournament.
Despite losing 26-7 against Australia and 12-7 against Samoa on day one, the Eagles found themselves with a chance to make the elusive quarterfinals. To do so, they not only had to beat an in-form Spain, but by 14 points.
The match began with Spain putting early pressure on the Eagles defense. Julen Gioa Iriberri eventually broke through to score the opening points, with Petro Martin adding the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Eagles’ captain Matt Hawkins was then yellow carded for a dangerous tackle with under three minutes in the half to play, leaving the Eagles vulnerable for the remainder of the half. With only six players on the field, Jack Halalilio managed to steal possession for the Eagles deep inside their own half. In only his second match as a starter, Carlin Isles cut the Spanish defense wide open and scored a fantastic try for his country. Niua uncharacteristically missed the conversion from in front, with the Eagles trailing 7-5.
Zach Test inspired his team with an unbelievable kick-off take, putting his body on the line and landing heavily on his head. With Test on the ground, the Eagles were down to five active players on the field. Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully did extremely well to recycle possession, with Isles picking up the ball and sprinting around two defenders to score an amazing try. The attempted conversion hit the poles, but the Eagles led 10-7 at the half.
Hawkins returned at the start of the second half putting the Eagles numbers back at full strength. Head Coach Alex Magebly then made four tactical substitutions, bringing on Shalom Suniula, Luke Hume, Andrew Durutalo and Nick Edwards. These impact players connected well, allowing Suniula to dive over the try-line and give the Eagles a 15-7 advantage.
It was then Spain’s turn to play with a man down, as Facundo Lavino received a yellow card. The Eagles remained composed, knowing that they needed a converted try to reach the Cup Quarterfinals. A sequence of long passes opened up space for Edwards, who sped down the touchline to score on the final play of the game. Niua then slotted the sideline conversion. Sam Boyd Stadium erupted with over 30,000 fans on their feet!
“The boys knew the points differential -- they stuck to the game plan, and did a great job. The impact players sped up the game, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Magleby said after the match. More post-match comments here.
The Eagles will face Fiji next at 5:52 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 9. 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. Fiji (Cup quarterfinals) – 5:52 P.M. PT Saturday, February 9
Eagles Results | Las Vegas Sevens
- USA 7 Australia 26
- USA 7 Samoa 12
- USA 22 Spain 7