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The United States finished up pool play in Hong Kong undefeated, tying England 21-21. The draw was good enough for the pool win, as the Eagles held a point differential advantage. They were plus-35 and England wound up just 17 points in the black. The USA will play Samoa at 11:42 p.m. ET Sunday in the Cup Quarterfinals.
Danny Barrett secured possession for the United States on the opening restart, and the Eagles maintained it through several phases before finding a hole. Zack Test made a charge for the line but was brought down a few meters short. Parry Baker picked and saw a gap right off the ruck, and he darted in easily. Converted, the score gave the USA a 7-0 lead.
England put together a similar possession off the next kickoff, but the pass that put Jeff Williams away for the score was glaringly forward. Referee Federico Anselmi missed the call, however, and the leveling try stood.
The USA nearly regained the lead when Zack Test poked the ball out of a ruck right on the try line, but Folau Niua knocked on as he tried to down the ball in pay dirt. The USA did win the ensuing five-meter scrum, and Maka Unufe sliced in for the go-ahead.
Just like after the USA’s first try, England struck back immediately, with Tom Mitchell besting Niua on the wing shortly after the restart. All conversions made in the first half, the score was knotted at 14-14 at intermission.
Unufe’s second try came on the first possession of the second half. Test violently took the half’s opening kickoff, and after a couple of penalties helped the Eagles in the attacking end, they deployed a very confrontational approach, and the battering left Unufe uncovered. Barrett squeezed the ball out to him with an unconventional jump pass, and the center pirouetted his way in.
England’s third try, like its second, was controversial. James Rodwell appears to knock on a loose ball as he attempts to pick it up, it isn’t called, and he regathers it to maintain possession. On the next phase Williams scored around Durutalo on the perimeter.
Anselmi’s poor performance nearly cost the Eagles the game entirely. England’s Dan Norton was allowed to roll multiple times on the ground after a tackle, and even crawl a bit, without releasing, but it went uncalled, leaving England with attacking possession.
In the next breakdown, Niua was being held on the ground by Rodwell, and he put a boot to the Englishman’s face out of frustration. He was rightly shown the yellow card, and the foul play has seen World Rugby hand down a six-game suspension for Niua. That rules him out of the rest of Hong Kong, with a maximum three games left for the USA, as well as at least a portion of next week's tournament in Tokyo.
Down a man for the final minute, the USA defended valiantly, even against a scrum about six meters from its own defensive line. Hughes came up with a try saving tackle off the set piece, Anselmi showed the USA some mercy by whistling England in the tackle, and Hughes kicked the ball to touch to end the game in a draw.