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The United States scored a third quality win in Port Elizabeth Sunday, knocking off Scotland, 26-19, to advance to the Plate Final. It was the USA’s third win, on the weekend, over a team that finished higher in the standings last season.
Scotland had all the offense for the first five minutes of the semifinal. The American defense was strong, holding the Scots out for the first four minutes, but patience and a few errors at the breakdown saw Scotland score in the corner and take a 5-0 lead.
Carlin Isles got it back, running horizontally along the pitch, crossing three Scottish faces before finding the perimeter and dotting down untouched. The conversion was missed, so the table was leveled at 5-5 with time enough for one more kickoff before intermission.
Maka Unufe won the United States the ball on the restart, and a probing run from Andrew Durutalo put the Eagles inside the attacking 22. Folau Niua scrambled to ruck, and Zack Test pulled the ball out just in time before floating a long pass to Hughes on the outside. The captain used Isles as a decoy and cut up field for the try. Converted, the score gave the Eagles a 12-5 lead at the break.
Scotland tied it back up right at the onset of the second half. A turnover led to Scottish possession, and miscommunication in the American back line gave Scotland a break outside Isles. A penalty and a quick-tap later and Scotland was in for the convertible try.
Isles made up for the defensive lapse shortly thereafter, beating one Scottish defender around the edge, and then cutting back against another, before racing in for his second score of the match. Martin Iosefo then caught an offload from Durutalo on the next possession, putting the Eagles up 26-12 with just over two minutes to play.
The lone highlight the rest of the game was a smashing tackle by Iosefo. An unwitting Scottish ballcarrier cut back into the Montana man, who laid the wood and forced a turnover. The Eagles tried an enterprising penalty play on that possession, where Test switched with Niua, ran backwards to get behind him, Niua kicked ahead, and Test chased. However, Test didn’t retreat far enough to get onside originally, so it was called back.
Scotland’s Colin Gregor added an inconsequential try with no time left on the clock, rounding out the final score. The Eagles advance to the Plate Final to face Fiji, which beat England 31-0 in the other semifinal.
Tries: Isles (2), Hughes, Iosefo
Cons: Hughes (3)
Tries: Gregor, Johnstone, Hoyland
Cons: Gregor (2)