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Team USA fell 28-24 to Fiji in the bronze medal match Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver. The Eagles matched the reigning World Series and Olympic champions in tries, but fell two conversions short. The second-straight top-four finish sees the USA move to fifth in the world standings.
The USA's opening restart wasn't taken cleanly, and Fiji took it off the bounce. An immediate chip and chase resulted in the defending champs taking an early 7-0 lead.
The USA responded just as quickly, with Martin Iosefo taking the restart, juking around some Fijian defenders and slipping a backhanded offload to Madison Hughes. The captain transferred the ball to Perry Baker, who streaked in untouched. Hughes' conversion was missed, and Fiji remained on top, 7-5.
Fiji took possession and stressed the American defense next, but the Eagles held strong, and eventually a knock on gave them a scrum. Fiji stole it, though, and Samisoni Viriviri scored in short order via a switch from Osea Kolinisau. The conversion made it a two-score deficit.
Baker was again set up by Iosefo, this time with the center wrapping an offload directly to the speedster, for his second try of the match and 100th all time. The score makes Baker only the second Eagle to ever notch 100 tries on the World Series. This time the conversion was good, and the USA trailed by two at halftime.
The back-and-forth continued through the break. Fiji won the kickoff to start the half, and Vatemo Ravouvou was the last in a long string of cheeky pass recipients, scoring near the posts.
Immediately, the Eagles answered. This time it was Baker creating for others, pirouetting through several tackle attempts before passing. With most of Fiji being sucked in by Baker, Maka Unufe had all the space to work with, and he raced in for his first score of the match.
Up by a conversion, Fiji won the restart. They hadn't been turned over all game, but Ben Pinkelman led the charge through a ruck to steal the ball. The Eagles didn't hang on long, though, and Fiji scored in the corner. The kick was made, meaning the USA would have to score twice in a minute to win.
They got the first one, with Unufe dotting down. The Eagles, trailing 28-24, opted to forego the conversion attempt and get another kickoff. Matai Leuta won the ball in the air but was forced into touch, ending the game.