Friday, February 2, 2018

Hamilton 7s: Eagles Ready For More

Heading into last weekend the pressure was on for the Eagles to get a good result and they delivered with a top four finish. The only teams they lost to on the weekend finished in first, second, and third place. It's three losses but overall the Eagles had a great weekend. There is room for improvement but fans were looking for the team to show some positive signs and they delivered.

The results in Sydney pushed the Eagles up from near the bottom of the table to to the middle in seventh place. There is still a long way to go to climb up near the top four but if they can continue to put together semi-final results it should do the job. Everything is there for Hamilton. They are missing the services of Madison Hughes and Steve Tomasin, which will hurt tremendously, but they've developed a lot of depth recently that should pay off this weekend.

So what would be a good result? At this point anything less than the top four has to be a disappointment for the team. After last week and last year they know that they are capable of reaching the top four any time they like if they are dialed in. Their draw Kenya, Samoa, and Canada will be physical but one in which the Eagles should be the top team.

Take the jump to read more.
The tournament starts today at 5:00 p.m. et/2:00 p.m. pt and can be viewed on ESPN3/WatchESPN.

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The Team

The Eagles have been forced to make two changes with Hughes and Tomasin out. Kevon Williams, who was the 13th man in Sydney, and Nick Boyer have stepped up to fill in the void. Having Williams's speed is very exciting for the Eagles and Boyer has been a very solid player for a long time. The rest of the team remains the same. Perry Baker, Danny Barrtt, Martin Iosefo, Ben Pinkelman, and Maka Unufe all had excellent tournaments in Sydney. Pinkelman will captain the team this weekend.

Squad: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Nick Boyer, Martin Iosefo, Carlie Isles, Matai Leuta, Chris Mattina, Folau Niua, Ben Pinkelman (C), Joe Schroeder, Maka Unufe, Kevon Williams

The Opponents

Canada (5:22 p.m. et/2:22 p.m. pt): For the second tournament in a row the U.S. will face their neighbors. Last week worked out really well for the U.S. in a blowout win dominated by Perry Baker. Canada are even more beat up this week but they did rally last week down a few men. Look for them to play loose but for the U.S. to still win.

Samoa (8:48 p.m. et/5:48 p.m. pt): The U.S. played Samoa in Dubai and lost. Samoa have been improving this year but are still a team the Eagles should beat. Look for them to be physical and can challenge the U.S. in the air but if the U.S. has the ball they'll dominate.

Kenya (12:22 a.m. et (Saturday)/9:22 p.m. pt (Friday): The U.S. has yet to play Kenya this year. It's been back and forth for them so far this year. They've made the top eight twice but also finished near the bottom once. If that pattern holds they are not in for a good tournament.

Keys to the Tournament

Possession: We mention it every week but as we saw last week possession is everything. The Eagles had success because they had the ball.

Restarts: Along with that it's important to mention restarts. The Eagles are the best team on the Series at restarts. It is what puts them in the top four. If Folau Niua can continue to connect with his tall timber then it will be a good day.

Use Baker: This is of course means get the ball into Perry Baker's hands as much as possible but it also means using him to draw in the defense. Multiple times in Sydney we saw players like Maka Unufe or Martin Iosefo use the threat of Baker as a decoy to go on a big run themselves.

The Takeaway

This week we'll see if the Eagles success last week as the start of a trend, which we hope it is, or if it just a one off. We think it's long lasting. The U.S. has traditionally struggled early in the season because they give their players breaks and what not. That played out once again but as we saw in Sydney they are back to good form. A top four may not happen this week but we think they win their pool and make the top eight once again.

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