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Ian Muir photo

The World Series finale didn’t start well for Team USA, with an uncharacteristic 28-12 loss to Wales in the opening contest. However, the Eagles rebounded in a big way, shutting Kenya out 47-0. That sets up the all-important pool finale against South Africa at 12:32 ET.

In the opening contest, Team USA was alert relatively on-point in the first half, keeping pace with Wales in terms of tries. The Welsh got on the board first, then the Eagles responded with back-to-back scores in quick succession from Ben Pinkleman and Andrew Durutalo, taking a 12-7 lead. Then Durutalo went for an interception, missing and creating a second score for Wales. It was converted, putting the USA down 14-12 at halftime.

The second half was nearly all Wales, but not at the onset. Team USA won the opening restart off the bounce, and it was Stephen Tomasin who collected it, offloading to Martin Iosefo who crossed the whitewash but knocked on in-goal, nullifying what looked like a sure go-ahead try.

That highlight-turned-lowlight set the wheels in motion for Wales to explode. The mistakes racked up for the USA, with Madison Hughes throwing a forward pass and knocking on, and a couple of penalties going Wales’ way to lead to two Welsh tries and the loss for the Eagles.

The second game was an entirely different story. Maka Unufe got the start at center over Iosefo, perhaps because of the try Iosefo let go unscored against Wales. The Eagles were clinical in this one.

Folau Niua, making his 50th appearance on the World Series, scored the game opener, his 50th on the circuit, off a penalty play. It didn’t take long for Niua to score his 51st, either, as Unufe tapped the restart back to him and he ran in his second of the game. The theme continued when Perry Baker got his first score of the tournament, his 50th this season, to push it to 19-0.

The Eagles weren’t done, as right on halftime, Hughes picked up from the base of an attacking scrum, ran between the Kenyan flyhalf and the center, neither committed, and he sliced upfield for the try, which he’d convert to make it 26-0 at halftime.

To start the second half, the Eagles won their own lineout, executed a set piece play before the ball was swung back to the forwards. They performed a designed reload play, with Stephen Tomasin taking a short ball and punching in another score. Hughes slotted the conversion – 33-0.

Team USA won the restart, a high, lofting kick from Niua, and went through a couple of phases before Baker had space on the wing. Despite the title of the season’s top try scorer being on the line, Baker decided not to burn to the corner but draw the defense and dish back for Ben Pinkelman, who dotted down.

Pinkleman would help set up the final try, too. Mike Te’o made a tackle that jostled the ball out of Kenya’s grasp, and Pinkleman scooped it up and shipped it to Tomasin for the score.