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In the final match of day one of the Rugby World Cup 7s, the USA made its presence known with a 35-0 shutout of Wales. At AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., the Eagles started a little slow and sluggish but got into a groove with tries from Martin Iosefo, Perry Baker (2), Danny Barrett, and Carlin Isles. The victory sets the Eagles up with a date against England in the championship quarterfinals at 4:38pm PST on Saturday.
The Eagles had to wait all day for their first match and even scrimmaged earlier in the day to stay fresh.
“We were antsy all day waiting until 9:37 at night,” Perry Baker said. “We had to play each other earlier today and I was just so frustrated because this was not the game I wanted to play right now. I want to be out at AT&T Park. It was a long day and a long buildup and to get out here and finally play in front of a crowd like this, it’s an unbelievable experience.”
Captain Madison Hughes shared Baker’s feeling. “All day we were itching to get out and go and it was one of those things where the guys showed we were ready for it and firing as soon as we wanted to. Not everything went our way especially at the beginning but I think it was being a little overeager and trying to force things. We didn’t let ourselves get down and stayed in the fight. Wales threw a lot at us and they were a really tough team to play against. We kept working for each other and stayed in it.”
Defense was key against a Wales side that gave all it had. “Those first few phases right in our own 22 at the beginning of the second half, I think that was huge,” Hughes stated. “We were running everywhere for each other, fighting for each other, and diving on the loose balls. That really epitomizes the defensive effort we had because we didn’t have the ball we are used to dominating kickoffs and stuff.”
Baker’s day got off to a rocky start but he took it to the house on his subsequent touches. “The first one, I lost my footing when I went to make my move and I had to regroup. It was kind of my fault as I saw a place where I wanted to hit, but I lost my footing and I had to keep the ball. I thought about offloading but possession was key and my teammates were around and ready to ruck for me.”
“The second one, I just wanted to finish. I know they work hard inside and I knew I had space outside with the way Wales was playing. They left the outside open and I just tried to take advantage of it and finish for those guys.”
On the third touch, “I knew it was going to come back outside to me. I looked up and saw one defender outside of me and I’m glad I looked up to see that. I was like its going to come back out, he’s here and you might have to beat this guy, but when I saw him step inside, I was ready to go. But, ah snap, the sweeper is coming. I didn’t want to run the whole time and get caught in the corner so I just paced with the sweeper until I saw him turn.
Hughes summed up the day citing work ethic, desire, and the attitude was the keys to the win. “We were ready to keep pushing and keep going for each other. Not everything went our way as Wales was a very tough team that held the ball for a long time. They made us work but we stayed in it, kept fighting, and didn’t give up.”
England is next in tomorrow’s quarterfinals. “First thing is we need to bring that same attitude, the same desire,” Hughes concluded. “If we have that, it will put us in a good place and hopefully we can add a little more accuracy and dominate the kickoffs like we are used to. If you have that ball possession and pair it with that attitude, we’ll be in a good place.”