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The United States erased a 17-0 halftime deficit to score its biggest win of the season by far in the opening match of Tokyo 7s. The game started poorly with the Eagles falling behind without much possession or positive play, but a remarkable comeback was sparked by an incredible second-half effort.
Samoa made the opening kickoff and knocked on when trying to regather the ball, resulting in an American scrum. Zack Test returned the favor by knocking on the out pass from Pono Haitsuka, which bounced in front of him. Samoan halfback Sani Niue ran in untouched off the attacking scrum. Converted, the try put Samoa up 7-0.
Samoa extended its lead off a penalty – Test was called for an intentional knock-on deep in his own end. This one was not converted, and the score was 12-0 with five minutes gone.
The USA pinned itself deep in its own end when Test swatted the restart backward and no one was waiting to gather it. The Eagles did finally scoop up the ball well inside their 22 before going through through a few phases, none of them producing any threat, before Edwards cleared his lines. The kick didn’t gain much territory, and Samoa scored easily off the lineout, not even having to set a ruck.
That try, converted, pushed the score to 17-0 at halftime.
The second half started immediately with some promise, as Test won the restart and ran the ball into the attacking end. Andrew Durutalo helped move the ball closer to pay dirt with a nice offload to Test, but he was held up in a maul at the try line, and Samoa was given a scrum.
The ball never left Samoa’s end, though, and Test poached the ball from a ruck and handed it to Brett Thompson, who ran in for the USA’s first score. The conversion attempt was missed, making it 17-5.
The Eagles caught a big break when Haitsuka’s restart kick landed way short of the 10-meter mark, but then bounced past it. Danny Barrett deftly grabbed the ball, and Madison Hughes chipped a kick through a shocked Samoan line and gathered for a try.
Samoa made another error with two-and-a-half minutes left, as speedy wing Ritchie Ah Chong knocked on in his own end. The Eagles then went through a few phases, and Test made the play of the game. He was well wrapped up by a Samoan defender, but spun through the tackle, fended off another Samoan and slid in for the try. Hughes converted, putting the Eagles up 19-17 with time melting off the clock.
Durutalo put the nail in the coffin when he scooped up a ball tapped back by Thompson on the restart and rumbled in for a try at the death. Thompson displayed supreme athleticism and sacrifice by laying out to tip the ball to Durutalo.
The win is easily the most impressive of the season and of head coach Matt Hawkins’ tenure. 1-0 in pool play, the Eagles face Fiji at 12:18am ET Saturday.
Tries: Thompson, Test, Hughes, Durutalo
Tries: Niue, Ah Chong, Foe