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Team USA was swept on day one in Dubai, falling 22-12 to New Zealand in the pool final. That loss was preceded by defeats at the hands of Samoa and Argentina in the tournament's pool of death. It marks the first time in Mike Friday's four seasons as head coach that the team as gone winless through pool play.
Sione Molia opened scoring in the third minute after catching an offload from Joey Ravouvou. Carlin Isles doubled down on Ravouvou, so all Molia had to do was catch the ball and not fall over. The touch line conversion was missed.
Isles got the score back on the next possession, though. It was the most crisp the Eagles have looked so far this season, with one perfect pass begetting another, and Stephen Tomasin would carry for a while before setting Isles’ speed free on the wing. This was also unconverted, leaving the game tied at 5-5.
Isles, looking thicker than in years past, won possession from New Zealand by earning a breakdown penalty. That’s a play he hasn’t made much in his career.
Isles against Ravouvou, the rematch, was setup up when the All Blacks stole a lineout from the Eagles. Isles made way for the massive unit on the wing, opting to catch him from behind instead of fronting up. He made the tackle and held Ravouvou throughout, even as the Kiwi regained his feet illegally and made an offload for the go-ahead try. The clear penalty was missed, and New Zealand would convert to carry a 12-7 lead into halftime.
The Eagles responded just seconds into the second half. Folau Niua noticed New Zealand didn’t have a sweeper, and he stabbed through a bouncy grubber for Martin Iosefo to run onto. He gathered cleanly and scored. The conversion was made, knotting the game at 12-12.
Ravouvou scored his second try to recapture the lead for New Zealand. He was again pitted directly against Isles, who couldn’t match up with the towering wing. One big handoff from Ravouvou and he was away. The corner conversion attempt was unsuccessful. The Kiwis doubled up on the score quickly, putting the game out of reach at 22-12.