By Karen Price | Jan. 27, 2019, 10:41 a.m. (ET)

The U.S. men's rugby sevens team stands for the national anthem at the World Rugby Sevens Series on Jan. 27, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand.

 

The U.S. men’s rugby sevens team went into this weekend’s third stop on the World Rugby Sevens Series as the top-ranked squad, its first time ever holding that position.

The Eagles had gotten there by reaching the finals twice, despite finishing second both times, and on Sunday in Hamilton, New Zealand, they made it three in a row. 

The Eagles were undefeated at 3-0 through pool play before beating Scotland 19-14 in the quarterfinals to set up a semifinal meeting against New Zealand. They won that match, 17-7, to move on to the final. 

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There they faced Fiji in a rematch of the final the week before in Cape Town, South Africa. That was a 29-15 loss and Sunday’s game was equally as difficult. Fiji scored three tries per half to walk away with a 38-0 victory and hand the Eagles their first loss of the weekend.

In the season opener in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the U.S. faced New Zealand in the final and lost, 21-5. New Zealand took the bronze on Sunday. 

Fiji now pulls even with the U.S. in the standings with 57 points apiece heading into next weekend’s play in Sydney, Australia. 

The top four teams after the series’ 10th round in Paris in June will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The U.S. finished in sixth place last season. 

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.