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Ian Muir photo

The Eagles advanced to the semifinals for the first time this season with a 24-7 defeat of Fiji in the quarterfinals Sunday in Sydney. The Eagles built a small lead in the first half before sealing the deal with a shutout in the second.

Early on, Perry Baker looked to be away after beating his opposite on the edge, but Jerry Tuwai hunted him down from the sweeper position, forcing him into touch. Ben Pinkelman stole the ensuing lineout and ended up carrying the ball into a tackle, at which Fiji would be penalized. 

Another penalty in the breakdown later, and Maka Unufe would make a half break and offload to Martin Iosefo, who found Folau Niua on the inside for the score. The conversion was missed, so the Eagles led 5-0 after four-and-a-half minutes.

An exhausted Niua knocked on picking up a loose ball on the next possession, giving Fiji a midfield scrum. Off the set piece Niua would go into a tackle with no wrap and miss his mark, leading to Fiji’s first try. The conversion made it 7-5 with one enough for a restart.

The kickoff went straight into touch, giving the USA a free kick. Iosefo jinked through the Fijian line and beat Tuwai to pay dirt, dotting down with Tuwai draped all over him. Niua slotted the conversion, putting the USA clear by a try, 12-7.

Fiji was called for a high tackle on Niua on the opening possession of the second half, won by Unufe at the restart. Off the set piece, Unufe and Iosefo linked up on a midfield give-and-go, and Unufe scooted in cleanly.

The Eagles won yet another restart thereafter, and Baker cut back across two Fijian defenders before swerving under the posts for a second-straight score. With one being converted, the USA led 24-7, which is how it would end.