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Team USA’s quest for a medal ended Wednesday with a 24-19 defeat at the hands of Fiji. The result dropped the Americans to 1-2 at the end of pool play with an insufficient point differential to advance. Coming into the match, the USA needed to win, tie or lose by three or less to move on. They fell two points short.
The United States got on the front foot early, but the drive was ended by a bad no-call resulting in a turnover. Danny Barrett took the ball into contact near the attacking five meter. He fought his knees to the ground, constituting a tackle, but Fiji never released and wrestled the ball away.
The Eagles would win the ball back in the same end, and Barrett got it in his hands again, this time with space on the wing. He stepped inside two Fijians and dove over for the game’s first try. Madison Hughes converted, putting the USA up 7-0 after five minutes.
Fiji leveled the table a minute later. The Americans took the restart, and Garrett Bender found himself alone on the wing. Nate Ebner came in support, but he was too late, and Fiji turned the ball over and sliced through a broken defense.
The USA got on the board first in the second half. Ben Pinkleman took a turnover in the attacking end, and the ball was worked to Baker, who darted into the middle of the try zone with the help of a strong dummy line by Fiji. With the conversion, the USA led 14-12.
Fiji scored back-to-back tries in quick succession to regain the lead. The first try was converted, pushing the deficit to five. The second score wasn’t, making it 24-14 with about two minutes to play. Ebner was able to find enough space to score, but he was unable to center the grounding, leaving a tough conversion. If it were made, the USA would trail by the requisite three points to advance to the quarterfinals. But Hughes missed, leaving the Eagles down five.
There was time for one more kickoff, which was won by Fiji. The Americans did force Fiji out of bounds and into touch right on full time. They were given a chance to throw it in, they won the lineout, and then Fiji blasted over the ensuing ruck to win the ball back and clear to touch to end the game.
The best possible finish for Team USA now is ninth place. The journey to that end begins with a rematch with Brazil at 3:00 p.m. ET.