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Sunday, May 22, 2016

London 7s: Eagles Beat Fiji To Finish Third


By Patrick Johnston

Mike Friday wasn't happy his team was in the third place game, but given his team's recent fragile form, he'll probably take it.

"This sevens game is brutal, absolutely ruthless if you’re not quite on your game, and we saw both sides of that today," Friday told the World Rugby broadcast on Sunday, following his team's 26-19 win over Fiji.

He was still irked about the poor final two minutes vs. Scotland in the semi final and he was also displeased with how long Fiji was allowed to take in offloading from the deck.

At the end of the day, though, it was a strong finish to the season, especially given the dip in form over the last three tournaments.

Take the jump to read more.

Against Fiji, who were crowned series champions following day one, the Americans came out firing.

The Fijians couldn't handle the first two restarts from the Americans and the USA scored off both. The first, to start the game, went right through the outstretched hands of the Fijians, landing right in Martin Iosefo's hands. A easier run-in he could not have had.

The next re-start was another mess for Fiji, who fumbled the ball into touch. They then were a mess in defending, as Ben Pinkelman danced through a couple tackle attempts to score. Madison Hughes nailed both conversions to put the USA out to a 14-0 lead after just a couple minutes.

You knew, though, that Fiji wouldn't be quiet for long. They finally got their hands on the ball after turning over the ball, and before you knew it, they'd made four passes and Kitione Taliga was diving over the line with his side's first score.

Not long after, the Eagles struck back. They kept their composure off the next re-start, worked the ball around and finally put Perry Baker in space; the speedstick ran the right touch line and scored in the corner. At 19-7, you had to fancy the USA's chances.

Then again, this was Fiji they were facing. Just as the Fijian defence was looking worn, so was the USA's. In the final minute of the first half, the Fijian went through a classic Globetrotters sequence, finally creating an inside gap for Taliga to hustle through.

It was 19-14 going into the half and you couldn't be quite sure how the second would play out.

Tight, would be the answer. There were just two scores in the second half: the first by Jasa Vermemula to tie things up, then a strike back from who else but Madison Hughes, a try that would prove to be the winner.

The sequence that led to Veremelua's score was probably one that set Friday off, as there were a couple moments where the Fijians took a long time to off load the ball off the deck. Veremelua eventually found himself in a one-on-one with Baker. He used his long arms to keep the defender at bay, who brought him down short of the line but couldn't keep him from reaching to touch the ball down.

Hughes' game winning was nothing short of spectacular. Faced with a flat Fijian defence, the captain went for a long chip, sprinting past the defenders and diving on the ball just as it bounced over the goal line.

The Americans started the game short two men on the bench, so pulling it all together in the final big event before Rio will do great things for their confidence.

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