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The first match in Pool B was USA v Samoa. The Eagles opened their 2017 Las Vegas leg with a comfortable 29-5 win.
The last time the sides met was in Wellington when USA won 24-12. Prior to tonight’s match, USA had lost twice to Samoa in Las Vegas and not defeated them here.
Samoa regathered the opening kick, but the opening few passes were sloppy. Samoa struggled at the breakdown early and Stephen Tomasin won a turnover. Folau Niua made a good break to put the Eagles on the front foot. USA worked into the Samoa 22 where they won a breakdown penalty. Danny Barrett took the tap quickly and went over for the first score. Madison Hughes converted to give the USA a 7-0 lead.
Samoa had no trouble with the restart but continued to struggle at the breakdown. This time it was Barrett winning a penalty and Niua kicking to touch. From the lineout inside the Samoa 22, the Eagles first hit it up the middle before shifting the ball back toward the touchline to Barrett who scored his second try of the half. Hughes missed the difficult conversion to keep the score 12-0.
At the next restart, USA was able to contest and ended up winning a lineout just inside 40 meters. However, Samoa stole the lineout and was soon into the USA half for the first time. A strong run by Alamanda Motuga ended with a knock on and scrum to USA. Though they won the ball cleanly from the scrum, the Eagles opted to kick the ball into touch and go to the half up 12-0.
The kick by Niua to start the second half was knock on by Samoa, so the Eagles had another chance to attack from inside Samoa’s half. That possession ended with Niua going into the try zone. In the build-up, Barrett and Andrew Durutalo worked well in a tight space to put Samoa under pressure. Hughes kicked the conversion to make it 19-0.
Niua’s restart failed to go 10 meters, though. Samoa took the free kick and moved the ball down to the USA 22. They won a penalty, took it quickly, and Tila Mealoi scored Samoa’s first try. It was unconverted, so the score was 19-5.
Then it was Samoa’s turn for a restart mistake, and they were called for being in front of the kicker. The Eagles were not able to exploit the mistake and, after a bit of back and forth, ended up with a scrum inside their own half. From that possession, they won a penalty and took their time kicking to touch and walking to the lineout. They won the lineout and looked comfortable with ball-in-hand. After the hooter, Barrett scored his third, thanks in part to a nifty pass from Tomasin. Hughes slipped the conversion over to make the final score 26-5.
USA next play Chile Friday night and then finish pool play against England.