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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dubai 7s: Eagles Beat South Africa, Fall To England


Building off their win over New Zealand to make the Cup quarterfinals on day one, the Eagles picked up right where they left off with an impressive win and a close result that saw them barely miss out on the Cup final. The team will now play New Zealand in the 3rd place match.

Eagles 21-19 South Africa

The Eagles began their match with energy and nearly had a couple of opportunities, including an intercept from Zach Test that was eventually stopped. Still, the U.S. continued to stay patient and they were eventually rewarded when Test found Perry Baker in support for the try two minutes in. But South Africa are clinical and capitalizing on some U.S. mistakes they were able to stay patient and find Justin Geduld for a couple of tries to take a 12-7 halftime lead.  South Africa kept pressing using their defense to create opportunities. That led to Seabelo Senatla scoring to increase the lead to 19-7.

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That try set up a dramatic end to the match. The U.S. made a couple of substitutes and gained the momentum when South Africa had a man sent to the bin. With the advantage it was Matai Leuta that would come up big. Taking the ball off a penalty he was able to beat a couple of defenders to go over for the try. Just a minute later the U.S. kept their advantage and worked the ball into the middle of the pitch for Carlin Isles where he split the defense and went in for the score. The Isles movement all began when Brett Thompson was able to win the restart. From there the U.S. showed good game management and were able to wind down the clock for the win.

Starters: Leuta, Bender, Test, Niua, Unufe, Hughes, Baker

Eagles 19-24 England

Fresh off their win over South Africa the U.S. next faced England in the semi-finals. Like they have done against all the top teams they took it to South Africa early. It started with Test recovering the opening kick and the U.S. going through several phases before Leuta got the ball out on the wing. From there he went straight at his opponent beating him for the try. After the try the U.S. kept coming with the possession and territory. After the U.S. were stopped close to the line it was Zach Test that would scoop up the ball and go over for the Eagles second try and a 12-0 lead.

England were finally able to gain some possession and they eventually were able to get on the board themselves. England then immediately evened the score as they took the ball back on the restart and ran straight in for the try. At halftime the match was deadlocked at 12-12.

It would be Leuta again that would create the next chance for the Eagles. Taking on several defenders he was able to find space to offload to Maka Unufe who sidestepped the defense for the try. After eight minutes the U.S. were up 19-12.

Unfortunately for the Eagles the penalty count began to add up giving England lots of possession. The U.S. defense did well to defend for long stretches but it's hard to keep a top side like England out of the try zone. With just a minute left England would score and convert to tie things up at 19-19. With time expiring the U.S. continued to push but penalties killed every opportunity. Eventually that led to a chance for England. After a controversial penalty against the Eagles England found the space to score the winning try and advance to the final.

Starters: Leuta, Bender, Test, Niua, Unufe, Hughes, Baker


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