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Team USA finished pool play 2-1 in Vancouver Saturday, good for second in the group and a trip to Sunday’s quarterfinals. The Eagles defeated Wales and Chile before falling to South Africa in the pool finale.
The result sees them draw England in the quarterfinals at 2:52 p.m. ET. If they win, they’ll face the winner between Samoa and France.
The tournament opener against Wales started with the challengers scoring first, but three tries from Carlin Isles saw the USA ultimately cruise to a 40-14 win. The first two erased the initial Welsh lead, followed by a Martin Iosefo score to give the Eagles a 19-7 halftime lead.
Wales scored again early in the second half to keep it interesting for a touch longer, but the USA reeled off three converted scores to erase any doubt. Marcus Tupuola, in his second tournament ever, scored late to help flatter the score line.
The second match was much more touch and go. Chile jumped out to a 12-0 lead almost immediately with wing Ben De Vidts beating Isles for two tries.
Kevon Williams took matters into his own hands in the fifth minute, causing two Condores to fall down with his fancy footwork en route to the USA’s opening score. Chile managed to sneak in one more try before the end of the half, taking a 19-7 lead into the shed.
Ben Pinkelman scored two minutes into the second half to take another chunk out of the deficit, and Isles added one more two minutes later to level the table. With the aid of a Maceo Brown offload, he doubled up to give the USA its first lead of the game. Stephen Tomasin added one more for good measure, assuring the USA a spot in the top eight.
In the pool decider, South Africa took the opening kickoff, and JC Pretorius put them over the line 90 seconds in. The mercurial forward shoved Ben Pinkelman aside to earn the score, putting the Blitzboks up 7-0 following the conversion.
The Eagles looked dangerous on their first possession, but a forward pass from Martin Iosefo to Carlin Isles ended the threat. South Africa went two-for-two on the next drive, Stedman Gans dotting down from an offload after Iosefo was turned around in defense. The kick made it 14-0 with under two minutes in the half.
Team USA mounted an exhausting multi-phase possession that would go more than a minute into extra time, but it was cut short just a couple of meters from being rewarded when South Africa won a breakdown penalty and ended the half.
The Eagles finally got on the board four minutes into the second half. Carlin Isles sped around Pretorius to make a clean break. As the speedster slowed to fix the South African sweeper, he was caught from behind. The ball was spun the other way, where Tomasin stepped inside the last defender for a try. Hughes converted, cutting the lead in half.
Pretorius put the nail in the American coffin with a vengeful rebuttal. He got the ball on the wing opposite Isles and accelerated toward the touch line away from the smaller Isles, who cut him down from behind. Pretorius popped up immediately, placed and regathered the ball, and then grounded his second score of the match.