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With a 28-17 defeat of Spain, Team USA has completed a clean sweep of Pool C. The Eagles already had a berth to the quarterfinals in the bag after beating Australia and Samoa, so head coach Mike Friday opted to make changes to the starting lineup, starting debutant Cody Melphy at flyhalf and fellow rookie Joe Schroeder at prop.
Up next is the quarterfinals at 5:48 p.m. local time. The Eagles will draw the loser between South Africa and England.
Danny Barrett won the opening kickoff, and Maka Unufe made a hard run up the guts, drawing the Spanish defense to the middle of the field. Folau Niua caught the next pass from the breakdown, and with Spain scrambling to cover ground, cut back against the grain and dotted down under the posts. Niua slotted the kick.
Joe Schroeder, getting the rare start, scored the next try in the fourth minute. Barrett made the break up the right sideline, stiff-arming the same Spanish defender twice along the way before he went low and cut Barrett down. Schroeder caught an inside ball off Niua after the ruck for the try.
Spain answered back with a grubber ahead, catching a nice matchup on the chase, with the 6’5” Schroeder just barely losing. It took the television match official to decide the photo finish, but Spain got the try. They doubled up off the next restart very quickly, with debutant Cody Melphy whiffing on a critical tackle.
Maka Unufe stopped the bleeding right on halftime, dancing through two Spaniards and out-sprinting the rest en route to the USA’s third try. The conversion was slotted, making the halftime score 21-12.
Carlin Isles made it a three-score game and effectively solidified the result with just over three minutes to play. He got the ball midfield against a broken defense, which was no match. Isles scorched the turn en route to pay dirt. Isles then slotted the conversion himself – 28-12.
Spain scored at the death to flatter the scoreline, but it was of no consequence.