Eagles move to sixth in Series standings with Bowl win in Tokyo

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(ISN) – TOKYO – The Men’s Eagles Sevens climbed to sixth in the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series standings by capturing the Tokyo Sevens Bowl with a defeat of Australia Sunday.

Mike Friday’s team gained eight points from Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground to move within 20 points of fifth place after seven of nine Series legs. England won the Cup at the expense of Series-leading South Africa to grab the Olympic-qualifying position of fourth.

Following the end of this year’s Series, each of the top four teams will earn one of 12 places at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the first Olympic Games for the sport of Rugby Sevens.

Tokyo Sevens marked the first tournament since Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, the second leg, in which the Eagles did not qualify for the Cup competition. Saturday’s 27-5 opening loss to Kenya kept the Eagles from finishing in the top two of Pool C. Captain Madison Hughes scored the only try for the U.S.

The Eagles were able to bounce back quickly against Canada, which has not beaten the U.S. in three opportunities this season. Carlin Isles recorded a hat trick of tries in the win, though the 22-14 score line allowed Canada to keep its point differential close to the pack and eventually advance from the pool in second place.

A monumental task, the Eagles went into their final pool match against South Africa needing at least a 10-point victory and a Kenya loss to finish second in the pool. Tries from Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, and Isles kept the point differential low in the 24-15 loss, and Canada’s defeat of Kenya created a three-way tie for second place in the pool. On point differential alone, the U.S. finished fourth.

Seven different try-scorers propelled the Eagles to a 39-0 win against Portugal in the Bowl Quarterfinal, including Mataiyasi Leuta’s first career score. Folau Niua saw his first action in the U.S. shirt since the second day of Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens after serving a six-match World Rugby ban and made an impact on both sides of the ball.

Samoa ended the Eagles’ Cup hopes in Hong Kong last weekend with an “upset” Quarterfinal victory. Friday’s squad sought redemption and found it in the Bowl Semifinal Sunday, with seven points from Hughes and an Isles brace instrumental in the 22-5 win.

Australia, fourth in the Series standings at the dawn of the weekend, did not do itself any favors in pool play Saturday by losing to Portugal and Scotland. Even with a defeat of New Zealand, Australia finished fourth in Pool B before a 2-0 Sunday set up a Bowl Final against the Eagles. When all was said and done in Japan, Australia found itself in fifth place.

The Eagles trailed Australia, 12-5, at the half, with a yellow card to Niua just prior to the halftime whistle threatening the team’s Bowl hopes. A quick try from Barrett to kick off the second frame leveled the score at 12-12, the same score standing at the end of 14 minutes.

In the extra frame, the Eagles efficiently passed the ball and supported the ball carriers to set up Perry Baker for the match-winning try and 17-12 final score.

Isles, who finished the tournament as the leading try-scorer with seven, was the U.S.’s sole representative in the Tokyo Sevens Dream Team. The next stop on the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series is Glasgow Sevens May 9 and 10, where the Eagles are in Pool D with Argentina, Canada, and Japan.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Tokyo Sevens
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

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Tokyo Sevens
v Kenya – L 27-5
v Canada – W 22-14
v South Africa – L 24-15
Bowl QF v Portugal – W 39-0
Bowl SF v Samoa – W 22-5
Bowl Final v Australia – W 17-12