Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hong Kong 7s: Can The Eagles Keep It Going?

Photo: Connie Hatfield
The Eagles are on quite a roll. They've made the top four in three of the last four tournaments with a win in Vegas during that time. In nearly all facets they are playing very, very well, especially defensively where they have been able to suffocate teams. They have needed to play well. The team is still trying to make up for laying an egg in Dubai. Had they been able to pick up more than one point during that tournament they definitely would leap past Argentina for fifth place and maybe even Australia for fourth place. With four tournaments left there is still time to make those moves but they need to have a strong tournament in Hong Kong.

The best chance for the Eagles to leapfrog Argentina comes in pool play. They will take on the Argentinians in pool play along with Wales and France. The U.S. and Argentina should be heavy favorites in the pool but if Argentina or the U.S. slip then the standings could change. The U.S. are currently sixth with 73 points. Argentina have 77 points and Australia have 84.

Once again all of the action will be shown on ESPN3/WatchESPN. It starts tomorrow in the early hours of the morning.

Take the jump to read more.
The Team

Head coach Mike Friday haven't elected to make many changes to his team. Why would he? As mentioned this group of player has delivered a lot of success over the last few tournaments. Perry Baker and Carlin Isles have done well together when before it was thought they couldn't be on the pitch at the same time. Throw in the fact that Maka Unufe and Steve Tomasin are back healthy and in the line-up and you have what looks to be an even stronger team than the one that finished fourth in Vancouver. Unufe is often times the X factor for the Eagles. He has an ability to absolutely change a game by himself while Tomasin makes one great decision after another.

Roster: Carlin Isles, Ben Pinkelman (C), Danny Barrett, Matai Leuta, Brett Thompson, Chris Mattina, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Steve Tomasin, Kevon Williams, Perry Baker, Martin Iosefo; Alternate: Mason Al-Jiboori

The Opponents

France (6:24 a.m. et/3:24 a.m. pt): It has not been a season to remember for France. They are in tenth place and have only made the Cup round once. Still, they are a good side with strong players and it's hard to see them not making the Cup round at least once to end the season. Because France hasn't been good the Eagles have only played them once and that was actually a 29-12 win for France in South Africa.

Wales (11:38 p.m. et/8:38 p.m. pt): The U.S. have also only played Wales once. They lost 31-21 all the way back in Dubai. Obviously the two teams have changed since then with Wales failing to make the Cup round every tournament and sitting in a lowly 13th place. That is not good. They have only a few full time 7s players and borrow from the regions to fill out the rest. It hasn't worked out. The U.S. should be able to win this one.

Argentina (3:38 a.m. et/12:38 a.m. pt): The U.S. and Argentina have had a long history with each other this season. Argentina won the first three matches but the U.S. has take the last two, including the final in Vegas. Apparently Argentina were upset with the U.S. during that match so look for this one to have fireworks. Both teams should have won their two previous matches so this will be for the top spot in the pool in all likelihood.

The Takeaway

This is a tournament set up for the Eagles to succeed once again. Their draw is decent and they have the return of two difference makers. Is that enough to win the tournament? Yes it is. The U.S have proven that they can win this year with the triumph in Vegas. Their confidence is sky high and they have the legs to make it happen. However, they haven't always been as dominant in Hong Kong. In North America they were playing close to home but now making the big trip to Hong Kong could suck some energy out of them. The key will be if they can get Perry Baker going. All it takes is one match for him to catch fire and he'll have two good chances to get his rhythm early. We think they make the Cup semi-finals once again.

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