Sunday, March 12, 2017

Vancouver 7s: Eagles Finish With Fiji Loss

Photo: David Barpal
The Eagles couldn't replicate the magic they had last week to claim third as they fell to Fiji 28-24 in the 3rd/4th place match. Things didn't start well for the Eagles.  There was a bit of a scramble on the kickoff and in the confusion Waisea Nacuqu was able to chip ahead to himself for the opening score. Almost immediately the Eagles responded. Claiming the restart they simply swung the ball out wide to Perry Baker who ran around the outside for the try. However, Madison Hughes was off on the conversion and it stood at 7-5.

Fiji had the momentum after the U.S. try but with a try nearly in sight they knocked it on. It didn't matter much as they soon won possession back and Samisoni Viriviri took a nice offload for the try. The conversion sailed over giving Fiji a 14-5 lead.

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Still, the U.S. had the last word before the half. Capitalizing on a Fiji penalty the U.S. went for the lineout near the halfway mark. That set piece allowed them to swing it out wide into the hands of Martin Iosefo. He made the initial break before throwing an outstanding offload to Baker who raced in for his second try. It was career try #100 for Baker joining Zack Test as the only Americans with a century worth of tries. At the half Fiji led 14-12.

Like the first half things didn't go according to plan for the Eagles. The restart went straight into the hands of Fiji and it took more than a dozen passes but they eventually found the gap for their third try. The conversion was good and the Eagles were in a 21-12 hole.

That try seemingly gave Fiji the momentum but the U.S. did well to wrest it right back from them. Baker made an nice elusive run that drew in the defense and from there it was swung out to Maka Unufe who burst through for the try. Hughes was on with the conversion and the Eagles trailed by two 21-19. It was short-lived. A few moments later an attempted Hughes offload was knocked into Fijian hands and they quickly turned it the other way.

The Eagles still had life. Another Unufe try, very similar to his first, put the U.S. back in it with seconds to go. They missed the conversion but there was still time for one last play. Unfortunately for them they were able to corral the restart but Fiji turned it over and kicked it out for the win.

The lesson of the match was the same as with all Fiji matches: if you give them an inch they will make you pay. If it not for a couple of U.S. errors, mainly trying to do too much, they would have won the game. Instead, they allowed Fiji to play their way and it results in the win. Still, there are plenty of positives and the U.S. will now move on to Hong Kong with back-to-back semi-finals appearances.

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