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Team USA opened pool play in Paris 2-0 Saturday, slipping past Argentina 26-19 and running away from Wales 38-14. The Argentina match seemed in hand for the Eagles before the Pumas threatened late, while the Welsh match was nip and tuck through halftime before the Eagles blew it wide open.
The pool decider is against New Zealand at 11:58 a.m. ET. No matter the result, the USA will be moving onto the quarterfinals Sunday. If the Eagles beat the All Blacks, they'll likely draw the winner of France and England. If they lose, they'll likely draw the loser.
Argentina scored first thanks to an offensive penalty at the breakdown on Martin Iosefo, taking a 5-0 lead. The Eagles took the restart and made quick work of the leveling score, with Madison Hughes feeding Perry Baker. The conversion was good, putting the USA in the lead.
Stephen Tomasin won the ensuing restart, the USA having claimed all of the kickoffs to this point. This time it was Folau Niua attacking the line, using a dummy to get past the defense and score. The conversion made it 14-5 with two minutes left in the half. Argentina would score and convert before the hooter, making it 14-12 going into the break.
The Eagles pumped in a pair of tries in the opening minutes of the second half, the first off a kick from Niua to Iosefo and the second by Baker, putting the USA up 26-12 with about three minutes left. The Pumas added a converted score to pull within one possession, and nearly came all the way back. They chose to lay a kick and play territory, and it nearly paid off when the USA couldn't connect on a lineout on its defensive five-meter line, but the Eagle defense scrambled effectively and Tomasin forced a knock-on to end the match.
Against Wales, it was a pair of defensive lapses in the first half that made the game close. The first was a mishap by Iosefo, who shot out of the defensive line and lost his footing, falling to the ground as Wales broke away and connected in the open field for an easy score. Iosefo rebounded to score the USA's first try of the game, capitalizing on an overload created by a big Baker burst. Then Wales peirced the American defense very similarly again, regaining the lead before Baker blazed 95 meters for the leveling score, tying the game at 14-14 going into halftime.
The second half was all USA, as the Eagles exploded for four tries in a row. Iosefo scored his double first in the eighth minute, and then Baker tacked on his second. Then Maka Unufe followed up a troubling series of decisions deep in the American end with a long-distance score to shut the door. With the bench nearly emptied, Baker scooped up a botched Welsh pass and was off to the races, but he gifted the try to debutant Alex Schwarz, who scored his first international try.