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For the second consecutive week, the United States reached the cup final on the HSBC 7s World Series. After falling to New Zealand last week, the Eagles once again came up short falling 29-15 to Fiji.
The United States dominated possession in the first half but errors and penalties marred opportunities to score. Fiji completed one pass in the first half yet led 17-0 at the break.
After the opening kickoff went out of bounds, Perry Baker found space out wide but was pinged for holding on. Fiji knocked the ensuing penalty on and the Eagles tried the right flank to no avail with Baker getting carried into touch.
Fiji won a botched line out and managed to slip through the defense. Stephen Tomasin and Martin Iosefo looked to be good position to make the tackle inside the USA 22 but a fake pass fooled both for the opening score.
The USA continued to dominate possession but off a set play from a line out, a Madison Hughes pass was intercepted in the middle of the field and Fiji scored under the posts.
The problems continued off the next kickoff. The ball fell to the deck and Fiji scooped up the ball for a third try with no time remaining in the half.
The problems persisted in the second half. A ball thrown out of bounds and a penalty for holding on led to Fiji’s fourth score. After pounding the fringes, Fiji spun it wide and split a pair of Eagle defenders for 22-0 lead.
The United States showed some signs of life with a great individual effort from Ben Pinkelman to cut the lead to 22-5. The Eagles won the restart but Martin Iosefo tried and failed with a grubber kick. Fiji took the ball in open play and added the game clinching score.
Pinkelman and Carlin Isles added scores at the end of the game but it was too little too late.
It is the first time ever that the United States reached back-to-back cup finals. In another first, the Eagles sit in first place after two stops on the circuit with 38 points overall. To this point last season the Eagles held 13 points. In an Olympic qualification year, where the top four teams receive automatic qualification, this is a great start in the quest for Tokyo 2020.