Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wellington 7s: Eagles Survive Japan Scare

A bit of skill and a bit of luck saw the Eagles come out of their Trophy Challenge quarterfinal against Japan with a 19-14 victory. With no time left in the match Japan looked to have the perfect opportunity to score just meters from the line and with a man advantage but a big win at the breakdown from Danny Barrett kept the Eagles from dropping the result.

The Eagles started out with plenty of possession but couldn't make something happen. They were active at the breakdown and did well to limit Japan's opportunities. It took some time but eventually the first score would come as the Eagles worked the ball back and forth across the pitch. It landed in the hands of Martin Iosefo who made a sweet backhanded offload to Barrett for the score.

Not long after Japan would return the favor with some nice offloads of their own to tie it up at 7-7. Despite having most of the possession in the first half the Eagles found themselves down at the break when the ball was spilled after a big hit on Madison Hughes and Japan quickly turned it into a score and a 14-7 lead.

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The second half was much like the first in that each team took some time trying to get their opportunities. The break finally came for the Eagles when Japan overthrew their line out. It was picked up by Barrett who rumbled past several defenders for the equalizing try.

Carlin Isles started the match in place of Perry Baker and for the most part the team couldn't find him in space. That changed toward the end of the half as the Eagles finally found Isles in space allowing him to race in for the try. With just two minutes left the Eagles led 19-14.

Still, the result was in doubt toward the end. Japan earned a penalty and gained an attacking line out. From there was some back and forth with each team gaining penalty. With only seconds left Japan won the ball back. They went for the quick tap and Andrew Durutalo was judged to have not retreated to the goal line. However, rather than awarding a penalty try, which would probably have been the correct decision, the referee only gave a yellow card to Durutalo. Japan should have capitalized on the situation but it was Barrett that would come up big once again winning a turnover at the breakdown that allowed the Eagles to kick it out for the win.

Overall it was not the performance the Eagles would have liked but they will take the victory.  The Eagles will now play Kenya at 9:00 p.m. et/6:00 p.m. pt.

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