Sunday, May 21, 2017

London 7s: Eagles Lose To Canada, Finish Fourth

What a season for the Eagles! Despite a disappointing 22-19 loss to Canada in the 3rd/4th place match to wrap-up the London 7s and the 2016-17 season the Eagles will have no choice but to look back on a year full of positives. After a slow start the Eagles have been one of the four best teams on the Series in the remaining eight tournaments with five appearances in the semi-finals, including one finals appearance. It could have arguably been more finals appearances had they not continuously run into the buzz saw and dominating force that was South Africa this year.

The Eagles did it was a roster that was recovering from the Olympics. Some players, like Zack Test, didn't play for the team this season and they have uncovered new core players like Steve Tomasin. Other players like Perry Baker and Maka Unufe have taken things to another level and they have enjoyed the consistency of Folau Niua, the most underrated player on the Series. There is plenty to improve--getting out to a good start on the Series is one--but overall the bones are there for the team to take it to another level next year and even start the discussion of a top four finish. Remember, a top four finish the year before the Olympics will result in automatically qualifying for the Olympics.

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Canada have improved probably more than any other team from the start of the season to the end and it showed with a second consecutive win over the Eagles. They got out to a good start with a try just a couple of minutes in. Canada used inside power with most of their players closely clustered until sucking in the defense enough to spread it out wide for the score.

The U.S. responded right away. Some great handling, starting with Baker, put the Eagles close to the line and from there it was a couple of passes out to Maka Unufe who added to his weekend try total. Madison Hughes hit his conversion to give the Eagles a 7-5 lead.

The Eagles nearly had a second try but Matai Leuta was caught short on a great cover tackle from Justin Douglas.  Still, with the ball it was hard to keep the Eagles off the board. Following a number of penalties the U.S. were able to find Perry Baker out wide for a 14-5 halftime lead.

Canada got the second half started with an easy try. Lucas Hammond easily slipped through the defense and despite a desperate effort from Maka Unufe he could prevent Harry Jones from scoring to cut the deficit to 14-10. Soon after Canada were in again to take a 15-14 lead.

Self-inflicted wounds from both teams resulted in a couple of knock-ons. The final turning point in the match came as Madison Hughes had his kicked charged down by Nathan Hirayama who recovered for the try. At 22-14 and thirty seconds left Canada were also going to win the match despite a try after the hooter from Alex Schwarz.

Again, there are a lot of positives to take out of the season. This offseason is going to be crucial for the Eagles. They need to get their core rested, find a replacement for Andrew Durutalo, and continue to develop depth in case injuries mount up next year. 

1 comment:

  1. "A replacement for Andrew Durutalo" would be Garratt Bender. So bummed to see that guy sit out an entire year. Any word on his return to Chula Vista?