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The Eagles got back to a dominating standard in the fifth-place semifinal against France, scoring five tries to two for a decisive 29-12 win. Up next is the fifth-place final against Fiji at 11:36 a.m. ET.
Danny Barrett drew first blood, perhaps literally as well as figuratively, not even 40 seconds in. He delivered two massive handoffs en route to the game’s first score, the first of which knocked a defender well off his feet. Isles had a brief probe up one touch line right after opening kickoff, but pulled out and shipped the ball the other direction. Then it was all Barrett.
The Eagles won the restart, and Ben Pinkelman got involved, throwing around the French himself. On that possession, Barrett softened the French defense with his abrasive running style, knocking the same defender on his backside again. The Eagles would kick for touch after a French penalty, win the lineout, go wide and back again, and Pinkelman threw one defender off and stiff-armed another before offloading to Folau Niua for the score.
France would get one sore back immediately. It won the restart, and after the first tackle, a clever pick-and-go up the blind side resulted in a long breakaway and offload for a try. With all tries converted, the Eagles would carry a 14-7 lead. Hughes made it 19-7 before halftime, simply taking a switch for a score off an attacking penalty play.
The powerful forwards did most of the work in the first half, but Isles struck first with his speed in the second half. He blitzed on the left side of the field but was clotheslined, leaving the French down a man. On the set play, they shipped it to Isles on the right flank, and this time he wasn’t touched.
Kevon Williams got in on the action during the power play. Maka Unufe skied to win the restart, but he was illegally undercut by a French player, who was also shown a yellow card. On the penalty play, Folau Niua threw a dart of a cut-out pass to Williams in wide open space.
France would score its second try just like its first, with a pick-and-go off the base of the ruck up the blindside, as the Americans weren’t paying attention. The score was moot, though, as the USA had already done enough.