Friday, April 7, 2017

Hong Kong 7s: Eagles Scrap Past Russia

As often happens in 7s rugby it was a game of two halves as the Eagles beat Russia 14-7 in their opening match at the Hong Kong 7s. The Eagles had the majority of the go forward play in the first but in the second half they only touched the ball a couple of times as Russia pushed time and time again. That said, the Eagles will be happy with most of their defensive effort as despite all of that pressure Russia were only able to score once.

The Eagles were on the attack early. Madison Hughes was able to find some space on the corner and Martin Iosefo did his part with a fantastic one handed take on an offloads. Still, the U.S. had to go through several phases but eventually found a try when Folau Niua froze the Russian defense with a fantastic dummy. Hughes would hit the conversion giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

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However, the warning signs were there early as Russia came back with simple possession to work close to the try line. It wasn't anything fancy but the physicality of the Russians and their ability to hold on to the ball put the Eagles on their back heels. A Russian try looked inevitable but a super steal from Steve Tomasin gave the ball back to the Eagles on their own try line. From there it was simply a matter of spreading it out wide where Perry Baker ran the length of the field for the second try of the  match. Just like that it went from potentially being 7-7 at the half to 14-0 in favor of the Eagles after the conversion.

The second half was all Russia. Like the first half they played simple rugby and eventually found themselves close to the line. The only thing saving the Eagles was their strong defense and the fact that they had better fitness than Russia. Rather than looking like the tired team after all that defense it was Russia that seemed to run out of gas. Eventually Russia were able to grab a try to make it 14-7 with two minutes to go.

The Eagles could have closed out the match had they been able to hold on to the ball but a knock-on gave Russia another opportunity with seconds left. They tried going outside but a strong tackle from Madison Hughes forced them into touch and preserved the win for the Eagles.

The U.S. will next play Scotland at 12:26 a.m. et/9:26 p.m. pt tonight. If they win that match and Argentina beat Russia that will book a place in the quarterfinals. 

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