Men’s Sevens Finish 6th In 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
PARIS, FRA. – Where they were once 13 to start Paris Sevens, they fell to nine by the end of it all. Heading into the 5th Place Playoff with Fiji — the final match of the 2017-18 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series — the Men’s Eagles Sevens had lost Danny Barrett and Captain Madison Hughes to precaution, Malon Al-Jiboori to a pulled hamstring and Faitala Talapusi to a shoulder injury. Facing an already challenging squad, the Eagles were overcome by four opposing tries in their 28-7 loss to Fiji.
“Some real mixed feelings today for us. On the one hand I’m pleased with the character and identity the boys put in to representing the shirt and the Dawgs and that collective spirit cannot be questioned,” says Head Coach Mike Friday, conveying his emotion after a tough tournament and a long season. “Yes, we could have been more accurate in some areas but I am personally very upset at the inconsistency of interpretation at the breakdown and foul play at this tournament which was the cause to a number of those momentum moments.”
Closing out the season in 6th place overall, the United States now focus on the final task ahead — the culmination of each stop in the Series — at the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco this July 20-22.
After a disappointing 7-33 loss to New Zealand in the Cup Quarterfinals and an impressive 28-7 win over Spain in the 5th Place Semifinal, the nine remaining Men’s Sevens opened the 5th Place Playoff with Fiji expecting a hard fight.
Fiji’s Semi Kunatani was the first to draw blood in the affair but it didn’t take long for Eagle Carlin Isles take a wide offload and outrun the Fijians for the tie score, 7-7.
Despite the even nature of the scoreboard, Fiji was openly outworking the United States at the set piece. And, despite a great tackle by Folau Niua on a close Fijian drive, the Eagles’ opponent won an ensuing scrum and Sevuloni Mocenacagi dotted down to take the lead 14-7.
The Eagles would stay in the fight for the remainder of the match but the Fijians were relentless in their scoring. With the U.S. squad battered and bruised through the day, those on the pitch continued to battle to take back control of the game.
A number of penalties fell out of Eagle favor and although a yellow card on the Fijians gave the Americans a short opportunity, Fiji’s Alasio Sovita Naduva ended the match with two more tries and a 5th place victory, 28-7.
Because England was able to advance past the Cup Quarterfinals, their overall points will outweigh the United States overall position. Ending the 2017-18 Season in 6th place overall, one position lower than their Series completion last year, the Men’s Eagles Sevens are entirely focused on their upcoming showing on the grande stage.
“We’ll draw a line in the sand on the Series. While we didn’t achieve what we wanted in a Top 4 finish, we have so many positives to take from a season with so many injuries,” said Coach Friday. “This adversity has given opportunity for our players to grow in experience and responsibility and we have seen a number of new faces make an impact. We have also seen players increase their positional flexibility making us a more unpredictable team to play.”
The Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 will serve as the culmination of the entire season, bringing together the top 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams for an all knockout battle in San Francisco July 20-22.
The Men’s Sevens are seeded fifth in that contest and spend the next several weeks in heavy preparation mode so as to deliver a monumental performance to a home crowd.
Author: Aalina Tabani.