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The United States got off to an ideal start in Hong Kong, beating Samoa 26-12 Friday night to open pool play. It’s the Eagles second win over Samoa in as many tournaments and sets them up nicely for a possible second-straight run to the Cup Quarterfinals.
It started as good as it could for the United States when Garrett Bender took the opening kickoff with two hands, the Eagles went weak off the scrum, and Danny Barrett was found on the wing. He got a full head of steam, stretched through one tackle and raced for a try. Madison Hughes converted, putting the USA up 7-0.
The USA got the ball off the next restart, too, and after setting a ruck on the far right side of the field, they moved it wide to Zack Test, who stiff-armed one defender, slipped through the grasp of another and went in for the try. Unconverted, it gave the USA a 12-0 lead just three minutes in.
Samoa then went on the attack, and a penalty helped them get into the USA’s end. Off a scrum about 22 meters out, great defensive pressure forced Pono Haitsuka into touch inside his own five meter. Sani Niue then scored in short order off the set piece, pulling within five at 12-7.
Madison Hughes put the Eagles up two scores seconds later, charging down a poorly laid chip kick and running it over half the field directly under the posts for the USA’s third try. He converted, making it 19-7, which is how the first half would end.
Samoa started the second half with all the possession. After working the ball a dozen meters from pay dirt, Samoa was bundled into touch by Barrett and Nick Edwards. The Eagles took the lineout cleanly and went wide, but Edwards knocked on, giving Samoa a point-blank scrum. Kelly Meafua ran in easily off the set piece, closing the gap to 19-12.
The Americans put the nail in the coffin with about a minute out. Mike Te’o started a game of ping pong with his boot, and Hughes ended it, chipping over the Samoan line, gathering the ball and darting forward. He was caught, and threw a desperate offload to Test, who ran in for his second try of the game. Te'o converted, putting the Eagles up 26-12.
The USA got the ball back with no time left, and Andrew Durutalo knocked on to end the contest.
Up next for the USA is Scotland at 10:34pm Friday CST. If the Eagles win, they all but guarantee themselves a second finish in the top eight.
Tries: Test (2), Hughes, Barrett
Cons: Hughes (2), Te'o
Tries: Meafua, Niue
Cons: Fomai Ah Ki