The Runner Sports

USA Eagles Finish Fourth In Hong Kong

And then there were eight.

The Cup quarterfinals at the Hong Kong stopover of the HSBC Sevens Series saw the best teams from each pool advance to the final stages of play, each in search of sevens rugby glory. When the dust finally settled on the final day, the USA Eagles had gone 4-2 against some stiff competition and finished in fourth place after tangling with England, South Africa, and Australia.

England vs USA

In their third Cup quarterfinal appearance in as many tournaments, the USA squad encountered their Anglo opponents in what promised to be an electrifying match. First blood went to the English as some strong running from their forwards set up the fleet-footed captain Tom Mitchell for the opening try. That would be the last we heard from the currently 3rd ranked team in the series, as the remainder of the match was a masterclass of American rugby at its finest. American captain Madison Hughes would claim two tries along with Perry Baker, Stephen Tomasin, and Ben Pinkleman scoring one apiece. Displaying much of the determination required to survive amongst the top sevens powerhouses, when the English fell behind, the Americans never yielded the chance of a comeback and clinched a solid 27-7 victory over their cousins from across the pond.

South Africa vs USA

It was tired legs that carried the Eagles out to their fifth match of the weekend against a consistently impressive South African squad. Like two prizefighters circling each other trading blows, the encounters of these two teams this series have been nailbiters, with one game decided only by 6 inches of lean South African as Werner Kok held up a would-be try from Andrew Duratalo in the try zone back in Vancouver. This time, first blood went to the Americans as a Baker offload to a trailing Hughes led to an early try. The remainder of the half all belonged to the Springboks, who showed just why they are the top-ranked squad in the circuit. The South Africans claimed an additional try at the start of the second half to stretch their lead to 24-7. The Americans, however, were not to be outdone and showed their class with a score from Martin Iosefo after a grubber kick across the defense from Hughes. The comeback was secured after the Springboks presented far too much open field to Perry Baker who was eager to oblige his opponents through two late tries to tie up the match at 24-24. The modern sevens game is really one of precision as a wayward pass by an onrushing Iosefo was just out of reach of Tomasin and resulted in a turnover to the South Africans in extra time. This minor error was just the finger hold the Springboks needed to launch their own blitz and take control of the game. The admirable defense of the Eagles was not enough to stop some slick passing from their opponents and a conclusive score from South African Ruhan Nel putting the score out of American reach at 29-24.

Australia vs USA

With their Cup final hopes dashed, the USA Eagles did not appear discouraged as they took the pitch against Australia to compete for a third place finish in Hong Kong. The Aussies wasted no time in taking control of the match. Some fast-paced running and precision offloads furnished two tries for Australians Lachie Anderson and Charlie Taylor. With less than two minutes left in the half, Mike Te’o touched down for the Eagles leaving the score 14-7 at halftime. Two second half scores from the mustachioed Ben Pinkleman and Baker were not enough to finish a spirited Australian side. The men from down under matched try-for-try and enjoyed the final word through a late score from James Stannard cementing an Australian victory at 28-19.

Despite two losses, the Americans appeared a different team than the sleepy squad that took the field against the Russians on day one. USA sevens rugby is currently experiencing the predictable growing pains that come with an improving program. Between the talent offered by the players and the tutelage of coach Mike Friday, the ingredients are all there for continued appearances in the final stages of tournament play. Now cue the ice baths, recovery shakes, and empty ibuprofen bottles that accompany a tournament well-played. With only Singapore, Paris, and London left before the series conclusion, and the soonest tournament five days away, the Americans will need to restore their broken bodies and learn from their mistakes to ensure continued improvement going into Singapore.

Eric Sweigert

Eric Sweigert

Currently a teacher-athlete up in Northern California, I was first introduced to rugby in college (go Aggies) and haven't looked back. Nowadays you can find me teaching American History and writing about a sport that provided many good memories and more than enough stitches.
Eric Sweigert