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Mike Friday’s Eagles defeated France 31-15 in the Bowl Final to finish ninth at the Gold Coast. The USA threatened to make it a third-straight blowout, getting up three tries in the first half, but a yellow card and a mini-comeback from France in the second half pulled the game within one score before the Eagles ran in two more tries to win the game.

Test opened the account off a lineout about 90 seconds in. A hard-earned penalty was secured by Andrew Durutalo, who counter-rucked through two French players to draw the whistle. Madison Hughes kicked for territory, and after a cleanly won lineout ball was spun to the USA’s all-time points leader, Test split the two outside defenders and raced in for a try.

Another set piece play saw the Eagles extend the lead, again coming from a well-earned penalty through aggression at the ruck. This time they executed a tap-and-run penalty, with Garrett Bender taking a hard y-line in for the score.

Perry Baker got his sixth try of the tournament right on halftime to put the USA up three scores going into intermission. Off an attacking lineout, the Eagles simply swung the ball to Baker, and like he had multiple times in the tournament, he simply sped around the perimeter of the defense untouched for a try.

France wouldn’t be shutout, though, scoring seconds into the new half. Terry Bouhraoua touched it down after Virimi Vakatawa simply ran around Test and gashed the American defense.

Right after the ensuing restart, Baker was yellow carded for kicking a dead ball away. Vakatawa was just too much. Stephen Parez ran in one more on the depleted Eagles as time on the sin bin elapsed. Chase from Hughes kept the try from being centered, and the conversion attempt was missed, leaving the USA up 17-15.

Back to full strength, the Eagles responded immediately with a Test try. Baker broke the line first on one touch line, and the ball was moved to Test on the other. He hopped to freeze his opposite, and then gave him a stiff arm to get past him. At that point the game was in hand, but Danny Barrett scored right after to drive home the point.

The result is the USA’s best in a World Series-opening tournament since reaching the Plate Semifinal in the first event of the 2010/2011 season. It’s a marked improvement over Shield appearances the last two years.

Not only are the points and hardware of note, but so is the manner in which the feat was accomplished. The Eagles scrapped to beat rival Canada, were within a score of both Argentina and England until the very end of both their losses, and they were convincing in their three day-two wins. The USA ended up with a favorable point differential in Australia, scoring 126 and conceding 75.

USA 31
Tries: Test (2), Bender, Baker, Barrett
Cons: Hughes (3)

France 15
Tries: Bouhraoua, Vakatawa, Parez