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Eagle Men Are Back. 3rd In Sydney And Sparkling

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Eagle Men Are Back. 3rd In Sydney And Sparkling

Perry Baker selfies with a fan. Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

Glory almost returned to the USA Men’s 7s team, but certainly their level of play is back.

Stopped from a place in the final only thanks to a strong performance by South Africa, the Eagles finished the Sydney 7s in 3rd place, having beaten Scotland, Japan, Australia, and, finally, England; all of those victories were in a dominant fashion.

On Day Two, the Eagles had to beat hosts Australia to make the semis. On Day One Ben Pinkelman had noted that the USA had played the hosts the last two tournaments as well, so this was nothing new.

With the temperatures down somewhat from Saturday (when it was well into triple figures), the USA crushed all Australia hope. Perry Baker attacked right off the kickoff, and some excellent support lines and smart offloading allowed Baker to set up Cody Melphy. Then a barelling run from Danny Barrett set up Baker for a try of his own.

Australia did get one back, but then a nice interplay between Baker and Matai Leuta finally saw Melphy pop a pass back to Baker for a superb try. 21-7 at halftime.

The second half was all USA. They controlled the restarts, Martin Iosefo was a powerhouse, and everyone seemed to be in a position to make an offload.

After Stephen Tomasin sold out his body to stop the second-half kickoff from going out on the full, the Americans looped Kevon Williams around and he put Carlin Isles away in the corner. Pressure defense forced a turnover and Pinkelman fed Baker who was in at the corner. Isles raced over after some solid work from everyone, and then Leuta charged over from close range. 43-7.

South Africa handled the USA somewhat by getting right up in the Americans’ faces and also by cutting off offload lanes. With a couple of mistakes and South Africa performing well at the restart, it was 12-12 in the second half, when the USA failed to secure a lineout, and the Blitzbokke sliced through. 19-12 South Africa.

Chasing Bronze

OK, so one more chance. This time against England. The game slowed down in the second half and all of the scoring was in the first seven minutes. Baker scored on the opening possession, simply cutting back against the grain and taking off for 60 meters.

A play off a scrum led to Pinkelman charging out of some weak England tackling and it was 12-0.

then it was 17-0 after Naima Fuala’au picked up a loose ball and was shoved over by Barrett.

England scored at the stroke of halftime, but that was the end of it. With the rain thankfully coming down, and the field now very wet, the USA started playing a bit of a pick-and-go game, absorbed some pressure, and held on 17-10.

Here’s The Thing

The USA lineout kind of fell apart. They started choosing a scrum on penalties because they couldn’t win lineouts. This is rare for the USA and needs to be fixed. Yes, they miss Folau Niua, but everyone playing halfback should be on top of this.

The combination of Ben Pinkelman and Danny Barrett is greater than the sum of its parts. The two are world class separately, and together can dominate any game.

Madison Hughes did not play this tournament as he was apparently being rested, and overall what this did was to ask more of Kevon Williams, Melphy, and Fuala’au, and that’s a good thing.

Maka Unufe was nowhere to be seen on Day Two and it was Martin Iosefo who took on that bruiser center role, which he did well.

Carlin Isles and Perry Baker are tied at 199 tries for the USA in World Series games. The race to 200 has been an exciting one, and we’ll see someone get there in Los Angeles. This season Isles was 14 and Baker 13.

Pinkelman made the tournament Dream Team, and that was deserved, but Tomasin might have got there, too.

The points for and against for the tournament was 149-57 over five games.

This is the USA team we want to see.