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Duane Kahler Photo

In a thrilling, back and forth affair, the United States tied the two-time reigning Las Vegas 7s champions, South Africa, 19-19 this afternoon. Despite several mental and physical errors, the United States used a strong defensive performance and excellent play at the breakdown to draw with South Africa.

The United States won the opening kickoff but a questionable call from the referee deemed that the kick did not go 10 meters. The USA regained possession thanks to a penalty earned by Andrew Durutalo, but the referee also deemed the resulting lineout to have been not straight. Despite the early miscues, the Eagles were able to hold South Africa at bay and get on the board first.

The Eagles regained possession after the ensuing scrum when South Africa kicked deep into USA territory. Madison Hughes collected the kick and partially broke through the Blitzbokke defense and found Perry Baker on the wing. The speedster smartly popped the ball back inside to an oncoming Maka Unufe, who sprinted the rest of the way for a try in the corner. Folau Nia nailed the tough conversion to take a 7-0 lead.

South Africa evened the score after catching the United States napping. Cecil Afrika broke through the center of the line off a penalty, running right around Danny Barrett to score under the posts. Another error from the United States gave the visitors the lead. Hughes broke through the Springbok line once again, but an ill-advised pass was knocked backwards by a recovering South African defender. The visitors swung the ball wide and outflanked the Americans for another converted score.

The United States responded by working the ball side to side. Zack Test executed a perfectly timed offload to Folau Niua, but the American was dragged into touch to end the half at 14-7.

The second half started well for the United States despite a few sloppy moments. Hughes recovered a sloppy pass from Baker, and the Eagles won a penalty after Test was isolated in the tackle. Durutalo took the penalty quickly and had numbers to his right. After making a man slip, Durutalo backed himself for a score in the corner. The conversion was missed, leaving the game 14-12 in favor of South Africa.

The United States did very well at the breakdown in the second half forcing several penalties. Carlin Isles, who tried to beat the Blitzbokke wide left, found himself isolated. The Eagles did very well to contest the ruck and swung it right. In his last touch of the match, Unufe sidestepped a defender and took it under the posts for a converted try and a 19-14 lead.

The Eagles defended valiantly with two minutes to play, forcing South Africa to earn every inch of territory. After committing several penalties at the breakdown, the United States defense cracked for a try to the right of the sticks. Cecil Afrika pushed the conversion wide, and the game was deadlocked at 19. With time expiring, the Eagles had possession and a chance to go for the win.

The ball worked its way wide to Isles, but the man deemed the fastest on the field lost his footing and was called for playing the ball on the ground. The Eagles were forced to defend for one last possession and if not for a knock forward on the left sideline, the United States would have lost at the death. With the tie the Eagles finish pool play at 2-0-1 and second in the group due to a lower point differential. The United States will play in the Cup Quarterfinals later this afternoon.