Martin Iosefo competes at the 2020 Sydney Sevens on Feb. 2, 2020 in Sydney.
The U.S. men’s rugby sevens team found the breakthrough it was searching for.
Fired up from preliminary rounds filled with tries and success from 2016 Olympian Perry Baker, the U.S. defeated England 17-10 in the bronze-medal match of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Sydney Sunday afternoon, gracing the podium for the first time this year.
It didn’t take Team USA long at all to establish control against England. Baker, a former NFL signee, put the Americans on the board with a try in the first minute, followed by a second from forward Ben Pinkelman, an Olympic teammate of Baker’s, in the third.
Naima Fuala’au added his own in the seventh minute to give the U.S. a comfortable lead and momentum that not even tries from the English side by Will Hendy (8’) and Ollie Lindsay-Hague (15’) could hamper.
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Things went the U.S.’s way throughout the tournament. The Americans opened up pool play on Saturday with a 32-14 victory against Scotland, bolstered by two tries apiece from Pinkelman and Steve Tomasin, then routed Japan 45-7.
Lifted by three tries from Baker, the team trounced host Australia 45-7 early Sunday before suffering a 19-12 loss against South Africa, setting up the bronze final against England.
For their part, the U.S. women’s hopes of reaching the podium for the third time this season were dashed in a 19-15 loss to Russia early Sunday.
The men’s sevens series now moves on to Los Angeles, where actions begins February 29.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.