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The Eagles backed up its most impressive win of the season with its most impressive tie of the season Saturday in Tokyo, matching Fiji 19-19 to move to 1-0-1 in pool play.
The USA started off the game with some possession, unlike against Samoa. As well, the Eagles started with the lead when Zack Test proved untackleable and dove in for a try in the corner. The conversion attempt was missed, and the USA was up 5-0.
The ensuing restart was knocked on by Fiji, as stiff competition for the ball in the air from Danny Barrett was distracting. Fiji turned the ball over at the tackled right after, though, and went over 10 phases before Pio Tuwai scored to level the table. In the process, Fiji knocked on, and a short advantage allowed Fiji to regain possession feet from the try line. Converted, the try put Fiji up two.
In the final minute of the first half, after multiple turnovers from each team, Test was held up in the tackle just outside of the USA’s 22. Fiji won the ensuing scrum and Samisoni Viriviri beat Madison Hughes around the corner for Fiji’s second try. The missed conversion left the Americans down just one try going into intermission at 12-5.
A flurry of mistakes and penalties from the Eagles, and some typically enterprising running rugby from Fiji, saw the difference extended to two scores at the onset of the second half. A second Viriviri try, converted, put Fiji up 19-5.
Test wouldn’t let that lead last long, though, scooping up a tapped restart and racing untouched for his second score of the game. Mike Te’o’s conversion pulled the USA within seven at 19-12.
The USA won the next kickoff, too, but got caught up in a tackle, giving the ball back to Fiji. The Eagles got the ball back on their defensive five-meter-line after Fiji kicked for the corner. A big run from Mike Palefau led to a bigger run from Nick Edwards and an offload to Brett Thompson, who ran in to complete the USA’s tying effort. The conversion knotted the game at 19-19 with less than a minute to play.
Fiji held onto the ball for the duration of the game and nearly went over 80 meters for the win, but some impressive scramble defense from the USA put the ball in touch and got the Eagles out with a tie.
The result has the USA on the brink of its first Cup Quarterfinal berth of the season.
Tries: Test (2), Thompson
Cons: Te'o (2)
Tries: Viriviri (2), Tuwai
Cons: Mulevoro (2)