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Team USA suffered the first loss of the John Mitchell era Saturday, losing 24-23 to Brazil in Sao Paolo. The hosts rode big performances from brothers and halfbacks Moises and Lucas Duque, building an 18-0 halftime lead. The USA stormed back with a 23-3 run in the middle third of the contest, but Brazil answered with a game-winning penalty kick in extra time.
The loss drops the USA to 2-1-1 in the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, and barring a Canadian or Brazilian upset of the Argentina XV, likely knocks the Eagles out of title contention. They were in the pole position coming into the weekend, holding a bonus-point advantage on the Argentines.
Brazil opened its account with back-to-back penalty goals early to take a 6-0 lead. Then, when a clearance kick missed touch, Brazil's counter-attack ran through weak American arm tackles for the match's first try. The touchline conversion was good, extending the lead to 13-0.
In the 19th minute, an American punt was helped out the back of Brazil's tryzone by a Brazilian boot. But the ref didn't see the nudge, turning what should have been a five-meter scrum for the USA into an attacking scrum for Brazil. Not long after, Brazil earned an 18-0 lead when Lucas darted around a scrum for a short-range try.
James Bird put the Eagles on the board with a penalty near the half-hour mark, and then Mitchell called in Eric Fry for Demecus Beach. Shortly after, Joseph Taufete'e slammed over for a try a couple of phases after an attacking line out, fighting through four Brazilians in the process. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful, and the half ended with the USA trailing 18-8.
The Eagles drew closer with a second try seven minutes into the second half. Bird made a break and offloaded to Niku Kriger, who fed a streaking Aladdin Schirmer for the score. The conversion was missed, leaving Brazil up 18-13.
The hosts slotted a penalty kick shortly thereafter, regaining a two-score lead.
Mitchell rolled on a few more subs, bringing in Mike Te'o for Ryan Matyas and Mike Sosene-Feagai for Taufete'e. Te'o made a quick impact, bursting for a line break and setting up Kruger for a try. Converted, it brought the Eagles to within one.
The momentum carried over, leading to a point-blank shot at goal for Bird, which he nailed to take the USA's first lead of the game, 23-21. J.P. Eloff came on for Bird and attempted a 50-plus-meter penalty that would have extended the lead to two scores, but it came up short.
After a full-time penalty on the Americans as they tried to grind out the clock, Brazil had an attacking lineout, and the USA was penalized at the subsequent maul. Brazil teed up the game winner from 40 meters out, taking the win at the death.