PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – The Men’s Eagles Sevens paid their respects to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela prior to their opening match of the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens against Wales Saturday, but could not pull out the win, losing 26-10.
The Eagles handled possession early, but could not find the try zone. Folau Niua sent a listless chip kick into Welsh territory only to turn over possession. Wales took the ball and moved it wide before losing it forward.
The ensuing scrum was won by the Eagles, but Carlin Isles could not use his speed to outrun his opposite number. A loose pass lost possession again for the Eagles.
Wales went through a few phases and eventually scored through James Davies. Rhys Jones made the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Wales won the following restart and Jason Harries found Ashley Evans for the second try of the match. Jones could not double his tally, however, missing the conversion to keep the score at 12-0.
Wales took the 12-0 lead into the half, but the Eagles made sure to start the second frame with the ball, recovering the kickoff. Wales got the ball back and Davies scored his second try by fending off substitutes Nu’u Punimata and Ryne Haitsuka for a stroll into the try zone. Jones moved to two-for-three on conversion to extend the lead to 19-0.
Punimata opened the Ealges’ account by chasing down Niua’s chip kick into the try zone and diving on it, though Niua could not recreate his foot’s heroics with the conversion.
Brett Thompson cut the deficit by holding onto the ball in contact and extending over the Welsh tackler to dot the ball down on the other side of the try line. Niua missed his second consecutive conversion for a 19-10 Wales lead with three minutes remaining.
The Eagles could not turn possession into points in the final minutes, but gave up a final try to Davies – his third – after time had expired.
There were good signs in the 26-10 loss, and a matchup with New Zealand at 7:06 A.M. ET will test the Eagles’ attrition levels following a testing week after the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens. Watch the Eagles on the USA Sevens website – where you can also get tickets to the Jan 24.26 tournament in Las Vegas – and follow updates on Twitter with @USARugby.
Men's Eagles Sevens | v Wales
1. Carlin Isles
2. Nick Edwards
3. Andrew Durutalo
4. Nu'u Punimata
5. Zack Test
6. Brett Thompson
7. Folau Niua
8. Pat Blair
9. Ryne Haitsuka
10. Zach Mizell
11. Stephen Tomasin
12. Miles Craigwell
Men's Eagles Sevens | 10
Tries: Punimata, Thompson
Men's Eagles Sevens | Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens
v New Zealand - Saturday, Dec. 7 - 7:06 A.M. ET
v Portugal - Saturday, Dec. 7 - 10:14 A.M. ET