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Team USA completed day one with a 14-7 defeat of Fiji Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Coupled with Spain's 14-14 draw with Ireland in the pool finale, the victory saw the Eagles finish second in Pool B. Had Ireland won, a three-way tie would have decided it and could have bumped the USA to third. Nonetheless, it's the Cup Quarterfinals for the USA on Saturday, as they await the second-place finisher from Pool C.
The game started ominously for the Eagles, who had to scrap and claw the entire 14 minutes to earn the result. Fijiana's tactic was to hold up the American runners whenever possible, and it worked early, turning the USA over.
The first big break of the contest was made by Ryan Carlyle, but she was reeled in and the ball was turned over. Kate Zackary also made a burst before the ball was lost. After trading possession a couple of times, Fiji managed to score off of a couple of offloads. Ana Maria Roqica dotted down, and the conversion was made.
The restart wasn't won cleanly, but the Eagles managed to secure possession. They then leveled the table with a give-and-go between Alev Kelter and Joanne Faavesi, with the former scoring. She converted the try, making it 7-7 Sloppy ball at restart, USA gets it back. Line break by Kelter pass to Fa’avesi offload back to Kelter for try 7-7 half.
Fiji would make two more forays deep into American territory, but impressive, desperate cover defense by the Americans preserved the stalemate. One particularly impressive play was made by Naya Tapper, who sprinted more than 50 meters to track down a Fijian ball carrier who looked destined for pay dirt.
The wing looked understandably exhausted, but she mustered another big play. Mulou Mataitoga split two defenders to get to midfield, and Kelter passed the ball from the breakdown to Tapper, who skinned her opposite for the go-ahead score. The conversion was good, putting the Eagles up 14-0, which is how it would end.