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Head coach Mike Friday couldn't have scripted a better start to the Vancouver 7s Saturday, pounding Japan 52-0. Getting to play Japan in the first round is the payoff for finishing third last week in Las Vegas, and it will serve them well if point differential comes into play, as well as by letting the Eagles get their bearings in a low-pressure match.
Friday was able to empty his bench in the game, saving the legs of some of his routine starters. Perry Baker netted a hat-trick in the contest, and Ben Pinkelman and Stephen Tomasin scored twice each. Up next for the Eagles is France at 2:28 p.m. CT. France fell 12-7 to Australia to start the tournament, so a win would see the USA through to the quarterfinals.
The Eagles carved up the Brave Blossoms early and often, securing a 21-0 lead before Japan had a single meaningful possession. The opening flurry of tries started in the first minute, when Tomasin took a pass from Martin Iosefo to the house. It was followed up by a score from Baker, capitalizing on an offload from Danny Barrett. Barrett would keep the ball and smash over the next try, his 50th on the World Series. All three were converted.
When the Blossoms did get the ball, they coughed it back up, and the Eagles stretched the lead even further through Baker. He squeezed between the last defender and the touch line, walking a tight rope en route to pay dirt. The conversion was missed, and the Eagles led 26-0 going into halftime.
The second half didn't start as smoothly. Maka Unufe knocked on his first touch, giving a scrum to Japan. However, Pinkelman, who subbed on for Danny Barrett, stole the ball against the head. It was shifted wide quickly to Baker, who was given too much space on the wing and raced in for another score.
Pinkelman would be the next try scorer, carrying over a Japanese defender after Baker was able to offload through two tacklers to Durutalo who shifted it to Pinkelman. Tomasin added another in short order on a grubber through from Folau Niua. The latter was converted, pushing the lead to 45-0. Pinkelman would make it a double shortly after a penalty just outside of pay dirt, walking in for his second try.