VIDEO: US Eagles go to top in World Series
DAY THREE WRAP: The United States steamrolled Samoa 27-0 in the Cup Final to win the Las Vegas Sevens Sunday.
The result mean they seized the lead ahead of their semifinal victims New Zealand, at the halfway stage of the World Series.
Three scintillating days of action at the Sam Boyd Stadium saw the home team finish on top of the world and that further emphasises their credentials as potential series winners come the end of the season.
Tied with New Zealand atop the standings coming into the week, the Eagles beat the Kiwis 24-19 in the semifinals to reach their fifth Final in five events so far this season – then finally broke through for a win to launch ecstatic scenes at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“If we were going to win one of them, the one at home is the one we always wanted,” said a beaming US captain Madison Hughes.
“It feels so good, having missed out on it last year when I was up in the box [injured]. So now to be here on the field feels pretty good,” added Hughes.
“I’m so proud. That final shows that the first day didn’t really go the way we wanted it to but there was such good fight in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. It feels pretty amazing to be out here now.”
Ben Pinkelman scored two tries and there were tries from Matai Leuta, Hughes and Maceo Brown along with a stifling defensive performance from the hosts against Samoa, who beat Argentina 33-19 in the other semifinal to reach their first Cup Final since Paris in 2016.
“It’s amazing,” Pinkleman added.
“This is the exact moment we wanted.
“We had it last year and we didn’t want anything more than to be right back here, to be surrounded by everyone storming the field. It’s a great feeling.”
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Despite losing Danny Barrett to injury at the end of the second day, the outfit dominated the Cup Final with physicality in defence and sharp finishing in attack.
In contrast Samoa, playing in their first Cup Final since 2016, didn’t settle and went into the interval 10-0 down.
The United States upped the tempo in the second seven minutes and never looked like losing.
They scored five tries in the final with two coming from the Player of the Final Ben Pinkelman and kept their opponents scoreless.
After five rounds, and at the halfway point of the World Rugby Sevens Series 2019, the tournament victory creates a five-point cushion for the United States at the top of the standings with 98 points.
New Zealand are in second place , Fiji sit in third  and England are currently in fourth , just one point ahead of South Africa.
At the end of all 10 rounds the top four teams will confirm their places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Twelve teams will compete for the Olympic medals in from July 27 to August 1 at Tokyo Stadium and Japan are the only side currently qualified due to automatic qualification as the host nation.
All 16 teams that took to the stage in Las Vegas will now rest and recuperate before reconvening for the next leg of the Sevens World Series in Canada on March 9 and 10.
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) March 4, 2019
It was a closer affair in the semifinals, as Carlin Isles scored his third try of the match after the siren to give the United States a 24-19 triumph over the All Blacks Sevens.
First-half tries from Sione Molia and Kurt Baker gave New Zealand an early 12-0 lead, but the Americans had pulled ahead 14-12 at the break.
Folau Niua, however, fooled his defenders with a rare race away try up the middle to put the teams on the board and the Americans finished the first half with Isles striking off the breakdown for a converted try.
Another Isles try stretched the lead before a try from Kiwi captain Tim Mikkelson knotted the score at 19-19. But Isles came through again to give the United States a chance to defend their Vegas title.
“We went down 0-12 real quick and that’s tough to play yourself out of against a team like that,” said the United States’ Ben Pinkelman of a New Zealand team that beat the Americans in the finals at Dubai and Sydney.
“We had to play pretty scrappy. It wasn’t wide open for us but we stuck to our plan and we were able to get the job done.”
New Zealand – who had come through pool play unbeaten and downed Fiji in the quarterfinals – kept it close at the top of the standings with a victory over Argentina in the third-place play-off.
New Zealand scored three late tries to beat the South Americans and are five back on 93 points heading into next weekend’s Vancouver Sevens.
New Zealand mounted an impressed comeback against Argentina to secure third position with a 26-19 victory in the Bronze final.
Cup semifinal losses to the United States and Samoa respectively meant that the duo had to settle for trying to achieve a maximum tally of 17 World Series points and the contest for bronze was an enthralling one.
England beat Fiji 19-15 to finish fifth in Las Vegas and gain 13 valuable series points which moves them into fourth in the standings after five rounds of the season. It was an intense game throughout, with plenty of physical collisions, but was won in the final seconds by Charlton Kerr dotting down in the corner.
England set out their physical early against Fiji – Will Muir’s first carry showed their ambitions – and their first try came as a result of one-up runners gaining vital metres. Tom Mitchell’s conversion handed them a 7-0 lead before Jerry Tuwai made his mark. Tuwai, a standout player across the three days and an Dream Team member, crossed and then set up Alasio Naduva to create a 10-7 advantage. On the stroke of half-time, Meli Derenalagi was sent to the sin-bin but a wayward pass from Dan Norton meant that England couldn’t make further inroads before the pause. The match remained locked until just over two minutes to play when Fiji’s excellent wrap around gave Terio Veilawa an unopposed route over the line. There was room for one final twist though as tries from Ryan Olowofela and Kerr helped to clinch a four-point victory.
Seven top players make up your @HSBC_Sport Dream Team at the #HSBC7s in Vegas. Who’d want to play against this team? AWESOME!@AllBlacks7s Sione Molia@fijirugby‘s Jerry Tuwai@USARugby‘s Carlin Isles, Martin Iosefo, Steve Tomasin & Ben Pinkelman @manusamoa David Afamasaga pic.twitter.com/n78k2ML6Cn
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) March 4, 2019
Earlier in the day, Fiji had an incredibly tough and intense clash with South Africa for the honour of playing in the fifth-place final, while England shut down Australia, who lost their shape slightly without captain Lewis Holland. Holland was suspended due to disciplinary reasons after a high tackle against Fiji on the second day.
Scotland snatched a thrilling Challenge Trophy Final out of Spain’s grasp after Jamie Farndale raced away down the wing to bring about a late 15-14 victory.
Los Leones had started the final with purpose, they opened up an overlap which Inaki Mateu exploited by scoring and then he converted his own try. They kept Scotland quiet for the duration of the first seven minutes before their opponents broke out on the final play and Alec Coombes provided five valuable points.
With the final poised at 7-5 Juan Martinez didn’t quite have the reach to be able to score for Spain and Scotland then took it the length. The team’s footballing skills ensured that Sam Pecqueur was able to get behind the last defender and put them ahead for the first time. Spain hit back and thought that they had the trophy wrapped up before Scotland’s co-captain Farndale took matters into his own hands.
Scotland’s Challenge Trophy semifinal opponents were invitational side Chile and once again Los Condores Sevens showed considerable skill and character. Benjamin De Vidts scored first before Scotland wrestled two tries back, one through co-captain Robbie Fergusson and the other from Max McFarland. The duo’s work produced a 12-5 lead at the interval, an advantage that John Dalziel’s side held for the duration of the second half. Despite strong Chilean pressure late on, Harvey Elms put the cherry on top with a length-of-the-field try in the final moments for a 17-5 victory.
Spain’s route to the final saw them prevail 24-7 over Kenya at the start of the second day. Los Leones excelled at the breakdown as well as having the ability to convert a wealth of possession into the tries required. Ignacio Rodriguez-Guerra, Pablo Fontes and Javier Carrion (2) all crossed over the course of the 14 minutes while Bush Mwale scored Kenya’s only try.
Las Vegas day three results
Cup Final: United States 27 Samoa 0
Third-place play-off: New Zealand 26 Argentina 19
New Zealand 19 United States 24
Samoa 33 Argentina 17
Fifth-place play-off: Fiji 15 England 19
Fiji 14 South Africa 12
Australia 14 England 33
Challenge trophy Final: Spain 14 Scotland 15
Challenge trophy semifinals
Spain 24 Kenya 7
Scotland 17 Chile 5
AFP & @WorldRugby7s