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Ian Muir photo

The Eagles rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Canada 28-14 in the opening match of Hamilton 7s Friday. It took some exhausting work in the breakdown and four-consecutive tries to come all the way back, plus a record-breaking try from Perry Baker.

Canada got on the board first with a try from Nathan Hirayama. He got the ball on the wing but ran out of space and opted to kick up the touch line, recovering it himself and scoring. The try was converted, giving Canada a 7-0 lead.

The Americans’ next possession was a folly of errors, with Folau Niua’s out pass from a ruck sputtering on the ground and Maka Unufe simply mishandling an easy catch a phase later, giving Canada possession in the attacking 22. Two penalties later, John Moonlight tapped and scored. Hirayama nailed the extra two – 14-0 after five minutes.

The Eagles caught a break when Martin Iosefo poached a ball deep in the defensive end. Perry Baker and Ben Pinkelman connected on a short-range give-and-go, with Baker squirting free and rushing in for the USA’s first score. Despite very little going their way in the first seven minutes, the Eagles trailed by a single converted try going into the half.

The momentum carried over, with the Eagles winning the opening restart and Danny Barrett bumping one Canadian and shucking another out of the way so he could offload to a streaking Unufe for the score. The easy conversion was nailed, tying the ball game a minute into the second stanza.

The Eagles looked to have something going in a broken field shortly thereafter, but an intentional knock-on against Canada paused the run of play for the offender to be sent off. Then magic happened, resulting in Baker becoming the all-time try leader for the USA, as he surpassed Eagle great Zack Test.

Barrett floated a woeful pass over Baker’s head on the wing, he regathered the ball and nearly went out, but spun twice, dizzying the Canadians enough to create a hole and the score. The conversion was true, putting the USA up 21-14 with three minutes to go.  

Leuta made the next big play. Canada bobbled the ball while pulling it out of a ruck in its own 22. Leuta pounced on the halfback and won a penalty in the ruck, giving the Eagles an attacking 22. Iosefo easily danced in against a 6-man Canadian defense, slamming the door shut on a big comeback.