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Paced by 27 points from openside flanker Matt Hughston, the USA Rugby South Panthers beat The Bahamas 37-18 Saturday in NACRA play. Chance Doyle put the Panthers on the board with a try early on. The outside center did most of the work with a break up the touch line, but he unselfishly dished the try to the fullback at the last second. Hughston converted.
The Bahamas banged over two penalties early to trail 7-6, and a point-blank penalty from Hughston put the Americans up 10-6. Then the Bahamas took its first lead of the day when the outside center found space from a broken play, scampering into pay dirt. The conversion was made, putting the hosts up 13-10.
Hughston put the Panthers back up with counter-attacking score. A South winger chipped ahead, and the Bahamian fullback returned a poor kick of his own. Hughston picked it up and evaded three defenders en route to a score under the posts. Hughston converted his own score, putting the Americans up 17-13 going into the half.
In the early goings of the second half, The Bahamas regained the led off a South miscue. The Panthers were driving well inside the Bahamian half when a dropped ball in the backline reversed possession. A chip and chase was recovered by a speedy wing, who outraced his American counterparts en route to a try. The conversion was missed, putting the Panthers up 18-17.
Hughston stroked over another penalty not long after, putting the Panthers up 20-18. He'd add to the lead with another penalty several minutes later, making it 23-18. The gap remained just one score for some time until some hard-charging runs and fortuitous bounces resulted in the Panthers crossing the line for the first time in the second half. Hughston converted, putting the Panthers up 30-18.
The icing was smeared on by Hughston, who picked from a point-blank scrum for his second try. The Bahamians seemed confused during the five-meter-scrum, and the ref had a discussion with both of his assistant referees before awarding the try, but he awarded it nonetheless. Hughston tacked on the conversion to close the books.