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Ian Muir photo

Despite a nip-and-tuck first half, the Eagles were blown out by South Africa 35-7 in Sydney semifinals. Both teams traded yellow cards in the opening stanza, but South Africa scored twice during the man advantage compared to the USA’s once. Then, in a blink, the Blitzbokke blew the game wide open and never looked back.

The Eagles continued their restart success, claiming the opening kickoff. And South Africa brought its typical contentiousness at the breakdown. Every time the USA went into a tackle, the Blitzbokke made it difficult to recycle.

Despite an early South African penalty, the Eagles couldn’t muster much of an attack on the opening possession, and when South Africa got its first taste of possession, it took just seconds for Seabelo Senatla to breakthrough off a switch and score from long distance.

The Eagles caught a break when Justin Geduld was sent off for an intentional knock-on. A penalty against the Eagles for not releasing in a tackle wasted half the power play, but Danny Barrett won the ball back in the same fashion, and Folau Niua threaded a long cutout pass to Perry Baker, who jogged in for the USA’s first score. Both tries were converted, leveling the table at 7-7.

The whistle broke the other way, and rightfully so, when Niua was binned for a high tackle, during which first contact was made around the neck. That gave the Blitzbokke a man advantage right on halftime, and Tim Agaba was assisted by Kyle Brown, giving them a 14-7 lead going into the break.

The second half was all South Africa. The Eagles picked up a penalty almost immediately, South Africa went quick, and Werner Kok simply challenged Iosefo one-on-one, shoving him out of the way and racing in for the score.

The Eagles’ last chance at making the game competitive came off a break created by Unufe. It pushed them deep into the American end, but Iosefo simply knocked on, giving the ball back to South Africa. There was a scurry for possession in midfield, which South Africa won after a hospital pass from Baker to Leuta jarred the ball free. Eventually Geduld just waltzed in for the score.

Senatla added his second a minute later, adding insult to injury.