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Durutalo having fun beating his former home nation. Martin Seras Lima photo

The United States' Cup hopes were dashed with a 19-5 loss to Fiji in the semifinals Sunday. Without leading scorer Zack Test, injured in the quarterfinal win over Australia, the Eagles went stride for stride with Fiji through the first 10 minutes before some key mistakes mounted against them. 

The match’s first try in the opening minute was a result of Fiji getting away with a clear knock-on. A slapped ball was scooped up and spun wide to Isake Katonibau for the score.

Fiji nearly took a two-try lead, but a good defensive effort in the breakdown by captain Madison Hughes with his heels on the USA’s own try line prevented a score. On the other end of the field, Perry Baker almost scored off a scrum, but he was bundled into touch.

Shortly after the lineout, Fiji was called for a penalty in a ruck, and the Eagles would capitalize on the attacking platform. Maka Unufe made a half break and offloaded to Hughes for the try. The captain’s conversion missed, leaving the Eagles down 7-5 going into the half.

Semi Kunatani extended the lead in the second half, giving Fiji a two-score advantage with just about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game. The score was a result of a long period of ball-in-play time, which usually goes Fiji’s way.

Reserve Carlin Isles, who hadn’t seen much playing time in the tournament, displayed some happy feet when he finally got on, trying too hard to make something of nothing. When he did get some space to work with, he made a poor decision to attack up the middle of the field instead of the 30 or so meters of free grass on the sideline which were there for the taking.

Fiji tacked on one more for good measure, advancing to the final and relegating the USA to the third-place match. England will be the foe after losing a barnburner to New Zealand in the other semifinal.