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Paced by five tries from speedsters Carlin Isles and Perry Baker, the United States scratched out a fifth-straight Cup Quarterfinal appearance with a 2-1 day one in Wellington, New Zealand. They opened with a 24-20 win over Samoa, then fell flat against England to the tune of 19-5 before finishing with a 29-21 defeat of France.
The USA got up early via two tries from Baker and held a two score lead twice in the match, but Samoa busted out a 10-point run late to take a 20-19 lead with just a few second left on the clock. A flurry of penalties on what seemed like Samoa’s last-gasp effort set Manu Samoa up for a penalty drop goal to take the lead.
There was enough time for another kickoff, and the USA was able to hold onto the ball long enough for a game-winning score. It took a massive effort from Thretton Palamo, who appeared held up in the tackle but kept churning as a one-man maul to keep play alive. Eventually, Isles would gather a loose ball on the deck and put the Americans up at the death.
Against England, not much went right for the USA. The opening kickoff not going 10 meters was a signal of what was to come – a flurry of unforced errors that would see England take a 12-0 lead into the half and claim a 19-0 advantage before Madison Hughes scored a moot try.
The result set up a must-win encounter with France. It didn’t start well, as Julien Candelon scored early to put the USA in a hole. But an Isles try set up by Palamo and an offload from Barrett to Hughes put the Eagles up 10-7. Isles added another score at the end of the half to make it 15-7 going into the shed.
France scored at the onset of the second half to pull it close, but back-to-back tries from Test and Kevin Swiryn put the game out of reach in the Americans’ favor.
The second-place pool finish sees the USA paired with defending Series champ and first-place Fiji in the Cup Quarterfinals Saturday. The game kicks off at 8:08 p.m. ET.
USA 24 – Samoa 20
Tries: Test, Isles, Baker (2)
USA 5 – England 19
USA 29 – France 21
Tries: Test, Swiryn, Hughes, Isles (2)
Cons: Hughes, Augspurger