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U.S. rugby concludes best-ever season

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The U.S. ended the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series ranked fifth, its best result in the Series’ 18 seasons, after finishing fourth in the season’s final tournament on Sunday in London. The U.S. ranked sixth the two previous seasons.

Perry Baker became the first U.S. player to lead the Series in tries, with 57. He was second last season, a distant 18 tries behind South Africa’s Seabelo Senatla, who finished tied for fourth this season.

Baker also paced the Series with 285 points (a try is worth five points). Teammate and captain Madison Hughes finished third with 279 points.

“It’s easy to score when the guys on the inside do all the work,” Baker told reporters in London.

Baker, who is known for his highlight-reel tries and no-look passes, became the focal point of the U.S. attack this season with Carlin Isles, who is known as the “fastest man in rugby,” sidelined for eight of the Series’ 10 tournaments with various injuries. Isles scored more tries than any other player at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where rugby sevens made its Olympic debut. Baker and Isles are nicknamed “The Slow Bros” because they are two of the fastest players on the pitch, but two of the slowest off of it.

South Africa topped the Rugby World Series standings for the first time since 2008-09. South Africa claimed the bronze medal at the Rio Games.

Fiji, the 2016 Olympic champions, finished third. The U.S. finished ninth at the Rio Olympics.

Coverage from London will be televised Monday at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Several members of the rugby sevens team, including Hughes, will join the 15-a-side program this summer. USA Rugby will open its Emirates Airline Summer Series on June 10 in Harrison, N.J. on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

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