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Garrett Bender in contact against South Africa. Martin Seras Lima photo

The opening match of Port Elizabeth was a nightmare for the Eagles in more ways than one – they didn’t muster a single score in the 26-0 loss, and Perry Baker was the victim of a pitch invader. Near the end of the first half, a fan ran onto the field and tackled Baker, who got to his feet and kicked the intruder.

At that point, the Eagles were down just 5-0, as they competed well in the first half, stringing together some drives and stretches of good defense. Some unforced errors and penalties, though, kept them off the scoreboard.

In the USA’s first possession, Baker got the ball with little room to work, and he knocked on in the tackle. South Africa scored two phases later, when Cecil Afrika drew Baker’s attention and floated the ball to Seabelo Senatla, who ran in cleanly. Branco du Preez missed the conversion.

The United States had been on the right side of the whistle for the first few minutes, which helped them construct another possession. Baker took space on one wing, and Barrett charged forward on the other, but he was called for getting up and continuing after being tackled, ending the possession.

The United States turned the ball over, and Maka Unufe made a nice run before dishing to Madison Hughes. However, the assistant referee called Barrett for a late tackle, giving the Blitzbokke ball in attacking position. The Barrett call was dubious, as Barrett merely ran up to a South African player after the ball was away, and he grabbed Barrett and whipped him into touch. Nonetheless, the penalties mounted in the final minute of the half. Still, the Eagles held South Africa off the board until intermission.

Following a knock-on by Niua to open the second half, poor defensive efforts from Unufe and Andrew Durutalo resulted in a Werner Kok try. Phillip Snyman tacked on another shortly thereafter, following another flurry of American penalties. Both tries were converted, putting the Blitzbokke up 19-0. With much of the last few minutes spent by Folau Niua holding onto the ball apprehensive to pass to anyone, South Africa turned it over and added one more at the death.

South Africa 26
Tries: Benjamin, Kok, Senatla, Snyman
Cons: Afrika (2), du Preez