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The United States defeated Canada, 21-5, Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park to win the NACRA 7s Championship and qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Eagles stormed out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and scrappy defense and Canadian mistakes helped the USA overcome two yellow cards and a flurry of penalties to hold on for the win.
Canada committed a penalty in the opening minute in a ruck, giving the USA a lineout near midfield. John Moonlight won the ball back for Canada in the air, but a forward pass seconds later gave possession back to the Americans.
Possession went back the other way when Madison Hughes lost the ball in a Moonlight tackle. Two minutes in, both teams had given away possession and displayed the jitters to be expected in such a high stakes match.
The USA finally put together a possession long enough to score from just on four minutes in. Canada’s pressure pushed the USA back, but the ball founds its way into Baker’s hands, and he had enough space to blow past Sean Duke and through a Phil Mack cover tackle for the score. Converted, the try put the USA up 7-0.
Canada took the ball into the attacking half thanks to a penetrating run by Mack, but Andrew Durutalo won the ball back for the USA with a well executed poach. The Eagles sent it wide to Baker, he broke through the line and offloaded to a hard charging Danny Barrett, who outran Duke to pay dirt. The conversion extended the lead to 14-0, though Baker was injured on the play.
Canada knocked on the restart, giving the USA a midfield scrum. Under pressure in the set piece, Folau Niua had to get creative, dummying a switch to Maka Unufe and bursting through the defensive line. Unufe caught up and took a pass easily under the posts – 21-0 to the USA.
Durutalo scooped up a loose ball not long after the kickoff to put the Americans back on the offensive, but Niua was yellow carded for striking a Canadian player in a ruck. Canada kicked to touch to end the half and save the two-minute man-advantage for the second stanza.
The American captain took a big hit early after intermission. A rush defense from Canada saw Moonlight lay a square tackle on Hughes, and the ruck got chippy before a penalty allowed the Americans to kick to touch, melting a little time off the clock.
Carlin Isles, who came on for Baker in the first half, delivered some really good work defensively early in the second. He executed a poach and made a big tackle on Mack, who looked hungry for the try line, inside the American 22.
The Americans managed to get through the sin bin without conceding a score, but Canada would spend a good chunk of time in the attacking end. It took back-to-back penalties and a five-meter scrum for Canada to finally cross over for a score, and Nate Hirayama’s conversion attempt bounced off the uprights, leaving the Canadians with at least three more tries to score in under three minutes.
The Canadian hopes were dashed when Zack Test, the USA's all-time leading try scorer, came off the bench and delivered a booming tackle on Mack, jostling the ball loose. Chris Wyles fly-hacked it forward, and after a fight over the pill the USA had an attacking lineout with just over a minute to play.
Barrett would be called for holding on after being tackled, giving possession back to Canada. Wyles was yellow carded during the fracas, apparently for something off the ball, but there wasn’t enough time for it to make a difference. Hughes would eventually swat the ball out of Canada’s hands and kick it to touch to end the game.