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Evan Lappen photo

For the second week in a row, Team USA ran into the seemingly unbeatable South Africa in the semifinals. And for the second week in a row, the Blitzbokke held on to win in dramatic fashion. The Eagles have lost to first-place South Africa, winners of four-out-of-five tournaments, five times this season, with the average point differential being 7.6. On three occasions, the games were decided by less than a single try. This time the final tally was 14-10. 

The Eagles won the opening restart via Ben Pinkelman, and when he went into contact, South Africa was penalized, giving the USA an attacking lineout deep inside South Africa's 22. However, Andrew Durutalo knocked on in the tackle. 

The Blitzbokke returned the favor directly off the scrum, with Stephen Tomasin applying pressure. Then Martin Iosefo knocked on. South Africa made some yardage before Pinkelman single handedly stole the ball at a ruck, setting up Iosefo for a try on the other end. Hughes missed the conversion, 5-0.

The Blitzbokke and Eagles continued to play a bit sloppily, exchanging penalties immediately off the restart. However, the Eagles were unfortunate to be pinged consecutively, putting the Blitzbokke on the front foot leading to the tying score. Cecil Afrika nailed the touch line conversion, putting the favorites up 7-5, which is how the half would end. 

Tomasin soared to take the opening kickoff of the second half, followed by a pair of penalties against South Africa to put the USA in prime attacking territory. The Eagles won a lineout, Baker distracted the defense, and Durutalo scored on the other side of the pitch. The kick was missed, so the USA led 10-7.

The big man used all his pace on offense and was exposed on the defensive end when Rosko Speckman just turned the corner on Durutalo midfield, racing in for the try. Afrika tacked on two more, pushing the Blitzbokke up 14-10 with more than two minutes to play.

The Eagles managed to hold possession the rest of the way, slowly working the ball down the field. With no time left and the ball inside South Africa's five meters, a pair of pick-and-goes were stymied. The last one saw Durutalo cross the line but Werner Kok hold the ball up to end the game.