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Ian Muir photo

Already playing without Danny Barrett and Perry Baker, both being held out for precaution, Team USA lost Maka Unufe in the fifth-place final in Hong Kong, and they came up a puzzling conversion attempt short of gaining two points on Argentina in the season standings, losing 14-12. Argentina opened with back-to-back scores, and the Eagles replied with their own, but a dead-center conversion was missed, proving the difference.

Argentina bullied the Eagles early in the tackle. Ben Pinkelman got held up for an exceptional amount of time, eventually fighting to the ground to constitute a tackle. On the next bit of contact, Folau Niua tried to squeeze out an offload, and Argentina picked it off and went the other way for the score. With the conversion, Argentina led 7-0.

Stephen Tomasin knocked on the ensuing restart, and Martin Iosefo picked it up from an offside position, giving Argentina an attacking lineout. The Eagles won the ball back in the set piece, but Isles was turned over in the tackle on one wing, and Argentina scored quickly on the other – 14-0.

The Argentines employed a stalling tactic along the way. The first try scorer stood in the in-goal area for several seconds before being made to dot down by an American defender. The referee had to prod them to kickoff after their second try.

The Eagles would get on the board before halftime, though, when Isles picked up a loose ball after Maka Unufe dropped a pass, fought his way out of the grasp of one defender, and sped around the rest. He walked under the posts and dotted down right in the center. Somehow, the layup of a conversion was missed, leaving the Eagles down 14-5 going into the break.

 Isles got his second score after a long injury break. Unufe went down with what looked like a sprained ankle. After he was carried off, the Eagles restarted play, Iosefo connected with Niua on a give-and-go offload, creating the space for Isles on the wing to simply run through. This time the conversion attempt was good, leaving the USA down 14-12 with just under four minutes to play.

Argentina’s German Schulz was carded for striking Iosefo in the head while they were both contesting a ball in the air, giving the USA an attacking lineout. Kevon Williams juked past the initial line of defense and up to the five-meter line, but the ball was caught up and Argentina knocked on. The Eagles won the attacking scrum, and were awarded an attacking penalty, but the Argentine defense rebuffed the efforts and forced a handling error that would allow them to run the clock out.