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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, and the NBC Sports app.

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MORE: Fiji puts Olympic champion rugby team on dollars, coins

Fiji, GB advance to men’s rugby’s gold medal game; USA finish 9th

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Fiji and Great Britain will contend the first ever gold medal game in men’s rugby sevens.

Fiji led 10-5 at halftime of its semifinal with Japan on tries from Vatemo Ravouvou and Josua Tuisova and matched that offense in the second half while blanking Japan to scoop a 20-5 win and move onto the final.

South Africa drew first blood in its semifinal against Great Britain through Kyle Brown, but Dan Norton’s lightning run early in the second half led to a try and a point-blank conversion from Tom Mitchell to make it 7-5. The score held up.

Japan and South Africa will go for bronze. Fifth through eighth will be determined before the medal matches. WATCH HERE beginning at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

The United States beat Spain 24-12 to clinch ninth spot in Olympics men’s rugby sevens, and finish the tourney with a respectable 3-3 record.

A lightning-quick move from Spain’s Pablo Fontes put them up 5-0, but Danny Barrett executed another clever, shifting run to level things. Madison Hughes’ conversion put the Yanks up 7-5.

They added to the lead through Carlin Isles, and the teams traded tries from Angel Lopez and Maka Unufe to leave it 19-12 with 90 seconds to play. Isles added another try late.

Kenya beat Brazil 24-0 to finish 11th. The fifth through eight games are played before the bronze and gold medal matches later this afternoon.

Gritty, valiant, not enough: USA Rugby edged by World No. 1 Fiji

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The United States men’s rugby sevens team entered Wednesday’s Pool A finale against No. 1 ranked Fiji knowing they’d need a shock win, draw or loss by fewer than four to advance to the knockout rounds of the Olympics.

They lost by five.

Tries from Danny Barrett, Perry Baker, and New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner helped the Yanks to a valiant effort, but a late conversion attempt from an acute angle struck the goal post in a 24-19 loss.

USA went ahead through Danny Barrett, who combined grit and agility in racing through the Fiji defense for a try. Madison Hughes converted to make it 7-0.

But Fiji scooped a loose ball moments later to help even the score. Osea Kolinisau had the try and the conversion. 7-7.

Fiji took a yellow card at halftime, but scored down a man through Vatemo Ravouvou. 12-7 Fiji at the break.

The second half saw the Yanks fire out of the gates, with Perry Baker adding a try with another Hughes conversion to make it 14-12. But again, powerful Fiji countered quickly to go up through Kolinisau, who added a conversion to make it 19-14.

Semi Kunatani then got a try to make the advantage 10 with 90 seconds to play. The U.S. would need a try and conversion to go through. They got the try through Ebner, but the conversion hit the goal post.

The Americans showed well despite losing to Argentina in the first match before flattening Brazil in their second appearance.

South Africa, France, Great Britain, Fiji, Argentina, and Japan advanced as top two seeds in their groups. Australia and New Zealand are the two third-placed teams.

The U.S. will now compete in the ninth – twelfth place playoff.