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For the third consecutive tournament, the United States have earned a berth in the Cup Quarterfinals. With a 19-7 victory over Portugal and a South Africa victory over Japan, the Eagles, at 2-0, have clinched a spot in the Cup Quarterfinals.
Danny Barrett took the opening kickoff and was able to offload to Andrew Durutalo. Durutalo tried to offload to Folau Niua but the pass was a little bit low and the back was unable to hang on near the Portuguese goal line. It was a much more methodical start for the United States. After a number of phases and several penalties by Portugal, Barrett scored a nice team try. With a player down due to injury, Barrett was left wide open on the left sideline.
Portugal took a 7-5 lead on a nice individual effort by Carl Murray. The Portuguese broke the line down the left sideline but Niua made a solid recovery tackle to prevent a try. Nevertheless, Portugal swung the ball right and Murray was able to break several tackles to score. Coach Mike Friday will not be happy with the tackling on the Portuguese score.
The game was very much back and forth the rest of the first half, with the Eagles looking much slower than in their opening game. The United States retook the lead, however, after Maka Unufe took a turnover ball and broke through the Portuguese defense. Unufe slipped an inside pass to Perry Baker for the score and with the conversion from Madison Hughes, the Eagles led 12-7 at the break.
In the first several minutes of the second half, the Eagles earned a couple of penalties. After some broken play and sloppy handling, the ball worked its way left to right. Niua challenged his defender and was able to offload to Durutalo while being tackled. Durutalo threw a well-executed switch pass to Zach Test for a try under the sticks. The United States took a two score lead at 19-7.
The Eagles spent the remaining minutes on defense and were forced to play with six men when Danny Barrett was sent off with a yellow card. After the horn sounded, Portugal was knocking on the door but the Eagles defended valiantly, and a key turnover forced by Madison Hughes, sealed the point victory for the home side. Hughes earned a penalty and the United States sent the ball into touch to end the game.
Tomorrow, the United States will play South Africa in its final game of pool play to determine the winner of Pool C.