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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Vegas 7s: Eagles Come Close, Fall To South Africa


The Eagles showed heart, skill, and determination but South Africa showed exactly why they have been the class of the World Sevens Series so far this year as they edged the U.S. 20-17 in a thrilling Cup semi-final. The Eagles had the energy of the crowd behind them but the experience of South Africa and their ability to turn nothing into a try proved to be the difference. The U.S. will now either face Fiji or New Zealand in the 3rd/4th place match at 7:30 p.m. et/4:30 p.m. pt.

The U.S. got out to one of their most aggressive starts in a long time and it led to a couple of early tries. The strong wind that was present and impacted yesterday's play was back even stronger today. However, the U.S. took advantage of it early. On the opening kick Folau Niua's kick went ten meters in the air but blew back toward the halfway line. That seemed to temporarily confuse the South African players as the U.S. fielded the ball and quickly sent it out wide. From there it was a series of nice offloads out to Steve Tomasin who dived into the corner. The conversion missed but the U.S. were ahead early 5-0.

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In keeping the ball after the restart the Eagles headed right back down to the tryzone. The pressure forced South Africa into some cynical play and they soon had a player sent to the bin. Andrew Durutalo initially looked to have scored a try as he dragged two defenders with him but it was ruled to have been held up. From the ensuing scrum the Eagles did well to find Folau Niua for the score under the posts. With the conversion the U.S. led 12-0.

South Africa finally got their first possession four minutes into the match and as they are prone to do they soon had a try. It wasn't anything spectacular but it was a typical South African try where they stayed patient, kept the ball alive, and soon found a hole to race in for the try. They then added a second try when an attempted Iosefo offload went into the hands of a South African player and they again played simply for the score. Each time the conversion missed and the Eagles went into halftime with a 12-10 lead.

In the second half South Africa did the same trick the U.S. did on the kick and it resulted in instant possession. From there they simply outran the U.S. defense for the try in the corner. The conversion missed again in the wind and it was 15-12.

The U.S. did well to respond. South Africa actually won possession when the U.S. allowed the ball to bounce but it popped loose and the U.S. turned it the other way for an Andrew Durutalo try. That put the U.S. back in front at 17-15.

South Africa then went ahead as they and the U.S. traded breakdown wins. It was closer to the South African end and they had an overlap for the easy score. The U.S. did their best to make it close but when Madison Hughes's kick down to a chasing Perry Baker went into touch all South Africa had to do was win the lineout and kick it out. That's when Danny Barrett gave the Eagles one last life with a lineout steal. Unfortunately the South African counter-ruck was excellent and they won the ball to kick it out for the win. 

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