U.S. Men's Rugby Team Wins Silver At Singapore Sevens Cup

By USA Rugby | April 16, 2017, 1:38 p.m. (ET)
Simon Kennewell and Dylan Pietsch of Australia attempt to tackle Ben Pinkelman (C) in the semifinals of the 2017 Singapore Sevens Cup at National Stadium on April 16, 2017 in Singapore.

 

KALLANG, Singapore - The Men's Eagles Sevens' run to an HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series gold medal was stopped short by first-time winner Canada Sunday in a 26-19 HSBC Singapore Sevens Cup Final.

Perry Baker and Stephen Tomasin finish the eighth leg of the season with eight tries apiece, with the former passing England's Dan Norton in the season's try-scoring charts. The silver-medal campaign at The National Stadium yields 19 points in the standings, bringing the difference between Head Coach Mike Friday's team in sixth and New Zealand in fifth to nine points. The Series will recommence in Paris May 13-14, with the U.S. in Pool B with Argentina, New Zealand, and Wales.

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Following a 2-1 pool campaign in which only New Zealand escaped with a defeat of the Eagles, the U.S. used its prowess at the restarts to its advantage to knock off Fiji and Australia in the Quarterfinal and Semifinal, respectively. The streak ended in the Final, however, with the opening restart landing in Canadian hands. The Eagles never really found their footing on defense before Matt Mullins eluded the tackles of Folau Niua and Ben Pinkelman near midfield and Baker's at the try line for the 5-0 lead.

Despite Danny Barrett winning a penalty from the ensuing restart, the Eagles again found themselves without the ball as Niua's kick to touch stayed in play. Harry Jones passed to John Moonlight and followed his teammate beyond the gain line at midfield to dot down under the posts, 12-0. A tricky contest at the breakdown from the ensuing restart handcuffed Tomasin, and Lucas Hammond poked the ball through for Mike Fauilefau to score, 19-0.

Barrett looked to open a hole for the team with a barging run through multiple defenders in the final minute of the half only to lose the ball forward, but Pinkelman kicked the ball out of a breakdown for Baker to take to the posts. With little time remaining in the seven-minute period, Niua combined with Pinkelman to force a defensive turnover and captain Madison Hughes skipped the ball out to Tomasin for the 19-12 score.

Friday preached composure in the team talk at the break, and the Eagles exhibited it after winning a penalty at their own 10. Young Pinkelman took the tap and started the cycle out wide, where Baker cut inside Nathan Hirayama after slipping away from Moonlight's grasp to level the match at 19-19.

Canada gave away possession with sloppy handling in contact in its own end, and Martin Iosefo tested the defensive mettle at the 22. Hughes won a penalty 10 meters away on one side before Tomasin took it to the corner on the other, seemingly dotting down through Fuailefau's tackle. After a review, it was deemed there was no try, and the 11th-minute scoring opportunity vanished after Hughes, harassed from the five-meter scrum, threw a loose pass. Canada jumped on the ball and set on down the field for Hammond to finish under the posts.

The 26-19 deficit was not insurmountable with more than 60 seconds to play, but the gold medal slipped out of reach with a knock against the Eagles on the restart. Canada secured the set piece and ticked off the final seconds for its first Cup victory.

Though Baker and Tomasin were still behind Fiji's Waisea Nacuqu in the try-scoring table, both joined Barrett on the tournament Dream Team with two Canadians. For Baker it is three nominations in a row, while Tomasin was selected to the honorary list for the first time in his 12th tournament.

The Eagles won their first Semifinal in four tries this season earlier in the day for their first Cup Final in nearly two years - and third overall. The results across the weekend have solidified their place in the top five on the Series with a 19-point standings haul. The U.S. will look to continue its climb when the Series resumes in Paris May 13-14.