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Team USA fell to South Africa, 19-10, in the pool finale Friday in Dubai, bringing its record to 1-2. That will put the Eagles in contention for the Challenge Trophy, which is now the prize for the bottom eight in lieu of the Bowl.
It didn't take long for the Blitzbokke to get ahead. Kyle Brown took the opening restart and ran into contact, drawing the attention of Madison Hughes. Cecil Africa streaked right next to him and caught Folau Niua sleeping. Afrika strolled under the posts, giving Branco du Preez an easy conversion, 7-0.
The Eagles won the next kickoff and went through a handful of phases, but South Africa's defense was patient. After causing a pair of knock-ons, Seabelo Senatla found space for a try. A second conversion for du Preez resulted in a 14-0 lead.
The Eagles appeared to be suffocated by the South African defense again, when Perry Baker popped a kick over the rushing line. He'd dribble a couple of other kicks forward under the gun before dotting down in the end zone. Hughes' conversion bounced off the upright, leaving the USA down 14-5.
The Americans started the second half going forward, but Danny Barrett was tied up in a collision with Brown, who forced him into touch. The Eagles would keep the ball in the attacking end before turning it over, and it was a give-and-go between Stephen Tomasin and Martin Iosefo that led to the former San Diego State standout dotting down. With the conversion missed, the USA was with a single score at 14-10 with 3 minutes to play.
The poor tournament for captain Madison Hughes would continue, though, in a crucial moment. The USA earned a restart and won it well, but a simple pass from Hughes to Maka Unufe went awry, allowing the Blitzbokke to walk in for the decider, 19-10. Baker would add a consolation try with no time left.