By Karen Price | Dec. 01, 2018, 11:18 a.m. (ET)

Madison Hughes runs with the ball at the HSBC Sevens World Series on Nov. 30, 2018 in Dubai.

 

It was at the 2015 Dubai Sevens where the U.S. rugby sevens team scored its historic first-ever win over New Zealand, but an even more historic cup final win was not to be on Saturday as the Eagles fell to the All Blacks 21-5.

The U.S. can take some consolation in the fact that it took a significant step in the right direction to qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, needing to finish fourth or better in the 2018-19 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Team USA finished sixth last year.

The Eagles opened the Sevens Series in Dubai by earning a spot in the title match against two-time defending World Cup champions New Zealand. The teams also met in pool play on Friday with New Zealand winning, 24-7. 

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In the rematch, New Zealand took a 7-0 lead, but the U.S. capitalized on a penalty to make it 7-5. The All Blacks pushed ahead, however, after a lineout to make it 14-5 and then surged ahead with a try in the waning minutes to seal the victory. 

The Eagles earned their spot in the semifinals by defeating Olympic champions Fiji in the quarters, 24-14, then defeated Australia, 22-17, with Danny Barrett getting the winning score to earn a spot in the final. It was the Eagles’ first time reaching the Dubai sevens final and thus their best finish in the prestigious season opener.

The next stop in the Sevens Series takes place in Cape Town, South Africa, next weekend.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.