Samoa knocks Eagles out of Hong Kong Cup contention



(ISN) – HONG KONG – The Men’s Eagles Sevens will continue to seek their first Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens title after falling out of the Cup competition in the Quarterfinal with a 26-15 loss to Samoa Sunday.

Zack Test scored two tries in the loss, which sets up the Eagles for a Plate Semifinal clash with Argentina. The Pumas, three points ahead of the U.S. in the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series standings, were defeated by New Zealand in their Cup Quarterfinal at Hong Kong Stadium.

Nate Augspurger was inserted into Mike Friday’s starting seven after Folau Niua was cited in the Eagles’ draw with England in their final pool match Saturday. Niua is banned for six matches on the circuit.

Samoa struck in the first minute through Greg Lealofi after the Eagles lost out on the defensive kickoff. Samoa held possession as offloads came in the tackle. Danny Barrett grabbed onto Lealofi as he crossed the try line, but failed to hold up the try-scorer. Tila Mealoi converted for a maximum sevens points on the play.

Maka Unufe got hands to the restart first, but the ball found the pitch and bounced off of captain Madison Hughes into the hands of a Samoan. Samoa Toloa received it and ran to the corner of the try zone to extend the lead to 14-0.

It did not get better for the Eagles, who conceded a third try in just the fourth minute of the match. Toloa broke the defensive line inside the Eagles’ half after Barrett knocked the restart. Toloa did not score the try, however, instead handing the ball off to Alatasi Tupou to waste time and dot down in-goal.

The Eagles had their first possession in the fifth minute and drew a yellow card after driving into Samoa’s half. Friday’s team set up a disciplined attack destined to score until Barrett’s final pass to Carlin Isles on the wing at the 22 found touch. Samoa kicked the ball out to end the half.

The U.S. was on the front foot in the opening minutes of the second frame with the man advantage, but a knock by Augspurger ended a fluid attack inside Samoa’s half. Perry Baker and Garrett Bender replaced Isles and Augspurger, respectively, while Samoa’s player in the bin rejoined the action on the pitch.

Hughes was penalized following Samoa’s scrum win, and the lineout coming from the kick to touch was stolen by Bender. The Eagles quickly turned the turnover into points through Test, who managed to run nearly 10 meters with a defender on his shirt tail. Hughes’ conversion was wide, however, keeping Samoa’s lead at 21-5, a difference of more than two converted tries.

Baker was able to show off his speed in the 11th minute, though it was not with ball in hand. Lafaele Vaa broke down the wing after a turnover and was brought to ground by the winger, but Baker did not hold onto the ball carrier. Vaa got up, five meters from the try line, and dotted down for Samoa’s fourth try and a 26-5 lead.

Test added his and the Eagles’ second try of the match in the 13th minute, capitalizing on a penalty to Samoa. Baker scored a minute later to bring the Eagles closer at 26-15, but not enough time remained on the clock for the comeback.

The Plate Semifinal matchup between the Eagles and Argentina has more on the line than just advancement to the Plate Final. A loss ends one team’s tournament, while a win earns at least 12 points in the Series standings.

Watch the Eagles in the Hong Kong Sevens Plate Semifinal at 3:24 a.m. ET on Universal Sports and follow along with Twitter updates by @USARugby.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | v. Samoa
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

Samoa | v. USA
1. Greg Lealofi
2. Alefosio Tapili
3. Faalemiga Selesele
4. Tofatuimoana Solia
5. Lafaele Vaa
6. Alatasi Tupou
7. Lolo Lui
8. Tom Iosefo
9. Siaosi Asofolau
10. Samoa Toloa
11. Tila Mealoi
12. Tomasi Alosio

Men’s Eagles Sevens | 15
Tries: Test (2), Baker
Conversions: N/A

Samoa | 26
Tries: Lealofi, Toloa, Tupou, Vaa
Conversions: Mealoi (3)

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v Kenya – W 21-14
v Wales – W 40-12
v England – D 21-21
Cup QF v Samoa – L 25-16
Plate SF v Argentina – Sunday, March 29 – 3:24 a.m. ET