Isles’ 50th helps Eagles defeat Kenya in Hong Kong

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(ISN) – HONG KONG – It was truly a tale of halves at Hong Kong Stadium Friday as the Men’s Eagles Sevens overturned a 14-point deficit in their opening match of Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens against Kenya to earn a 21-14 win.

Danny Barrett provided the match-winning try and Carlin Isles added his 50th-career tally on the World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series to see out the victory, which ties the Eagles with England atop Pool D with a win and seven-point differential apiece after one match.

The first half was all Kenya’s. Collins Injera returned to the African side after missing out on USA Sevens last month in Las Vegas and made an immediate impact, scoring 30 seconds into the match. His 190th career try, good for third all-time on the circuit behind Santiago Gomez Cora and Ben Gollings, began with a step inside Perry Baker before the jets switched on for an unopposed run to the try line.

It took nearly five minutes for the Eagles to complete their first pass with Kenya consuming possession in open play and on the two kickoffs. Despite the early try and constant possession in the opening frame, Kenya struggled for real attacking threats inside the Eagles’ 22 due to the U.S.’s shape and discipline on defense. The second try, however, came from penalties against the Eagles.

In the final play of the half, the U.S. committed a penalty within 10 meters of the try line and Andrew Amonde did not have to run far between Baker and Make Unufe to dot down in-goal. A second successful conversion for Lavin Asego extended the lead to 14-0 at the break.

Eagles Head Coach Mike Friday knew his squad had been starved of possession in the first frame and made sure his charges understood their duties for the second half.

The Eagles managed to gain possession from the restart after the ball initially alluded Zack Test. Folau Niua recovered and Unufe broke one tackle at midfield for his 17th career try and a 14-7 score line. The restart was again favorable to the Eagles but a knock a phase after Andrew Durutalo’s collection ended the attack.

Both teams found time with the ball in the opening minutes of the second half but it was the U.S. show at the 40th incarnation of Hong Kong Sevens. In the 11th minute, the Eagles moved the ball quickly to give Isles space on the wing to stretch his legs. The speedster did not need to round his defender, however, instead opting to cut inside and beat three defenders with pure pace. Hughes converted the second try to draw the match level at 14-14.

Play restarted and the Eagles went back to work, passing the ball to the wing for Barrett to give his team its first lead since the USA Sevens Cup Semifinal against New Zealand. The 21-14 advantage would not be relinquished, despite penalty troubles for the Eagles in their own half in the final minute and Kenya’s positive play.

England’s 29-16 defeat of Wales leaves Pool D wide open with the final two opening-round matches to come Saturday. Though the Eagles have a 6-20 record against Wales all-time on the circuit, they took the only matchup between the teams this season at Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens.

Kickoff at Hong Kong Stadium for the U.S.’s second match is scheduled for 11:34 p.m. ET Friday. Live updates will be provided by @USARugby on Twitter, while Hong Kong Sevens is broadcast on Universal Sports.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | v. Kenya
1. Carlin Isles
2. Nic Edwards
3. Danny Barrett
4. Garrett Bender
5. Zack Test
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Nate Augspurger
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Mataiyasi Leuta

Kenya | v. USA
1. Tonny Owuor
2. Daniel Sikuta
3. Patrice Agunda
4. Felix Ayange
5. Bush Mwale
6. Humphrey Kayange
7. Leonard Mugaisi
8. Andrew Amonde
9. Michael Wanjala
10. Lavin Asego
11. Collins Injera
12. Billy Odhiambo

Men’s Eagles Sevens | 21
Tries: Unufe, Isles, Barrett
Conversions: Hughes (3)

Kenya | 14
Tries: Injera, Amonde
Conversions: Asego (2)

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v Kenya – W 21-14
v Wales – Friday, March 27 – 11:34 p.m. ET
v England – Saturday, March 28 – 4:42 a.m. ET