US upend NZ & Australia to cruise into Cape Town 7s quarters

December 9, 2017

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — The United States upended New Zealand and Australia to cruise into the Cape Town Sevens rugby quarterfinals with host South Africa on Saturday.

Defending champion England also swept its pool, while Canada won the fourth pool thanks to upsetting Fiji 22-14.

The U.S. failed to win a match last weekend in the sevens world series first leg in Dubai. Perry Baker, the world sevens player of the year, was concussed in the first match and didn’t appear again in Dubai or come to Cape Town. Still, coach Mike Friday said their problems were fixable.

In their first match, the Eagles humbled New Zealand 22-0. Carlin Isles sped in for two tries in the first half, then Ben Pinkelman made Regan Ware pay double for a high tackle on him by scoring their third try while Ware was in the sin-bin. Maka Unufe finished off the Kiwis, and Eagles captain Madison Hughes set up the last three tries.

“We were awful last week, we couldn’t catch a cold, we couldn’t pass wind,” U.S. coach Mike Friday said. “We saw some great resilience out there against a very physical New Zealand team.”

The U.S. followed that up by beating Australia 31-14 with a first-half hat trick by Isles, and defeated Spain 26-5.

New Zealand, at risk of missing its first quarterfinals in 20 years, crushed Australia 35-12.

South Africa swept aside Russia, France, and Kenya, conceding only a try to each.

In the process, Seabelo Senatla, after three tries against Russia and one against France, became the fastest man to 200 tries in series history, in his 35th tournament. Senatla was the fifth man to the milestone. Meanwhile, Dan Norton of England extended his series tries record to 272 on Saturday.

“It’s been a surreal day for me,” Senatla said. “The reception I got was amazing, and to play in my hometown was incredible.”

Canada conceded the first try to Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai but led by halftime after John Moonlight and Harry Jones scored. Justin Douglas added a pair in the second half and Canada held on to reach the quarterfinals after a first-up loss to Samoa 19-17.

Fiji routed Samoa 38-7 to make the last eight, where it will play South Africa on Sunday.

Also, the U.S. faces Argentina, England will meet New Zealand, and Canada tackles France.