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Team USA capped off its finest season yet with a third-place finish at London 7s, beating Fiji 26-19 at Twickenham Sunday. The win was exorcised some of the season’s demons, as the Eagles lost all four previous meetings this Series, two of them late in tournaments by a small margin. This time, they made the plays down the stretch to secure the win.
The result sees the USA finish sixth in the HSBC World Series table for the second year in a row, equaling its best-ever finish. The Eagles ended the season two points adrift of fifth-place Argentina.
The Eagles started the consolation match on top as Fiji misread the opening kickoff, lifting a few feet from the mark. The ball soared over outstretched Fijian hands, and Martin Iosefo caught it on the run and scored immediately.
Ben Pinkelman upped the lead with some power running shortly thereafter. The next kickoff was misread by Fiji as well, and Barrett was tackled high after gathering it. From that set piece Pinkelman scored, carrying multiple defenders across the line with him.
Fiji struck back in the fourth minute, but Baker erased it with a speedy effort in short order. The flurry of scores confined right up until halftime, as Fiji won the restart cleanly and some desperate offloads connected to produce a second try, cutting the halftime difference to five at 19-14.
Momentum carried through the break for Fiji. The Americans won the restart, but a breakdown penalty switched possession. Jasa Veremalua found himself one-on-one with Baker on the perimeter, and he delivered a hefty handoff to beat the thin wing. The conversion was missed, leaving the score tied at 19.
Hughes recaptured the lead for the Eagles, chipping and regathering when Fiji had no sweeper. The conversion was made – 26-19 – and the USA was able to hold on until the death.