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Team USA moved to 4-0 Saturday with a 17-12 quarterfinal win over England. Up next in the semifinals at 1:12 p.m. Sunday is equally impressive Fiji, which beat New Zealand at the death in their quarterfinal. This marks the fourth-straight year the USA has reached the semifinals on home turf.
England kicked long to start, giving the USA clean possession. Danny Barrett made the first long run before offloading to Maka Unufe. However, the Americans were penalized for diving over at the ruck. England returned the favor two phases later, resulting in an attacking penalty 40 meters out for the USA.
No matter, as yet another breakdown was called. England was then called for holding on in the next tackle. Two-and-a-half minutes in, the referee had called four breakdown penalties, with each side claiming two. The third was a charm for the Eagles, as England was pinged with their heels on their try line. After a quick tap, the ball was sailed wide to Perry Baker, who logged the game’s first score.
England made its first foray into the attacking end on its next possession, but Ben Pinkelman helped turn the ball over in a ruck, and it was swung wide to Baker, who this time had some work to do. He rounded the edge and sprinted over 80 meters for his second try.
The whistle kept being a factor, with the Eagles picking up their third penalty for diving over. England made good on this opportunity, quickly tapping and scoring to end the half. Only one of the tries was converted, making it 12-7 to the USA at halftime.
Baker completed the hat-trick a minute into the second half. Kevon Williams made a dangerous jaunt up the left touch line off a beautifully weighted cutout pass from Niua, drawing the English defense his way. Then the Eagles reversed field and found Baker, who shrugged off a tackle and dotted down. No conversion – 17-5.
England answered back through its speedster, Dan Norton, just over a minute later, making it a one-score game again. The touchline kick was good, meaning England could take the lead with another score, as the USA clung to a 17-12 lead with three minutes to play.
The restart was deep again, bouncing out of bounds to produce an American lineout. Williams drove through what looked like a sure tackle before getting caught 40 meters from the try line. England held him up in the tackle, resulting in a scrum the other way. England legitimately threatened, but a pop kick found Pinkelman’s hands.
The Eagles were called for another breakdown penalty with just over 30 seconds to play, giving the English a scrum at midfield and a chance to win it. However, England missed on a pass on the wing, giving the Eagles a lineout 10 meters from midfield. All they had to do was win the lineout, and they did. Unufe made a run but got tackled five meters from the line. England was called for a high tackle, letting the USA end the game.