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Team USA bagged its first win at the Youth Olympics with a 24-14 win over Samoa Monday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The win sees the Americans finish fifth with a 1-3-2 record.
They opened with a 38-0 loss to France and a 24-24 tie against Samoa on Saturday. Sunday, a close loss to South Africa, 19-12, was followed by a 17-17 draw with Japan. Monday, the Americans fell to Argentina, 22-14, in the final round of pool play.
The Americans entered the fifth-place playoff the higher seed, as Samoa’s best result had been its tie against the USA. Samoa struck first and second, seizing a 14-0 lead approaching halftime. Then captain Junior Waqavesi Shimmied his way through the Samoan defense to set up a try for Johnny Mahe, cutting the deficit in half before the break.
The Americans pitched a shutout in the second half, running in three tries by Zach Neff, Jasper Green and Jon Rodriguez. Mahe and Isaia Kruse led the team in tries with three each throughout the tournament. Kruse added eight conversions to lead the team in tries.
Argentina would go on to win the tournament on home soil, defeating defending gold medalist France in the final, 24-14. The hosts dominated the entire competition, with an average score of 36-8 through round-robin play. Their closest game was against the USA.
"Upon reflecting on the tournament, what was evident was the growth of this team on and off the pitch. We started to believe and trust one another and that has translated into more capitalized opportunities,” said head coach JD Stephenson.
"What is always amazing to me is the fighting American spirit that is relentless and doubles down when challenged or put into a corner - much like we were early in this tournament. Full credit must go to our Young Dawgs, our physiotherapist Alan Wallace, the Men's Sevens program, Tom Pirelli and the rest of the Golden Eagles for affording these 12 young men this life-changing experience."