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It wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles are onto the gold-medal match at Dubai 7s with a thrilling 22-17 win over Australia. The Americans jumped out to a 12-0 lead, then conceded 17-straight points before Danny Barrett scored the walk-off try two-and-a-half minutes into extra time.
The win puts the USA into the final against New Zealand at 10:29 a.m. ET. The All Blacks delivered the Eagles their only loss of the tournament so far, 24-7, in pool play.
A 24-14 defeat of Fiji in the quarterfinals started day two for the Americans. Perry Baker scored a brace in the first half to take a 12-7 lead into the break. Martin Iosefo and Folau Niua doubled up on tries to start the second half, putting the game well out of reach before Fiji again.
In the semifinal, the Eagles caught the first break on the opening kickoff, when Perry Baker tipped the ball toward his teammates, it bounced off the ground, and Martin Iosefo scooped it up and scampered up the left touch line. The promising possession ended when Danny Barrett spilled the ball forward on the other wing the next phase.
Australia held onto the ball for the next three minutes, forcing Australia to make 18 passes but make little headway. The resilience paid off when the Australians knocked on just inside the American 22. Off the ensuing scrum, Perry Baker chipped, chased, scooped and scored all on his own.
The USA’s second try came much quicker, with the Eagles fielding the kickoff cleanly and Folau Niua drawing the attention of the defense by tucking and charging forward. That created some space for Martin Iosefo, who fixed the last two defenders and fed Leuta for the score.
Hughes connected on the first conversion, giving the Eagles a 12-0 lead. It would be chopped directly following the restart, as Australia’s Locchie Anderson returned the favor with his own first-phase try.
Jon Porch erased the lead altogether when Ben Pinkelman lost the ball in contact deep in the American end and the speedster gathered it and darted under the posts. The conversions were equal, leaving the score stalemated at 12-12 going into halftime.
The momentum stayed in Australia’s corner, as Baker was lost to a regrettable yellow card when he went for an interception and committed an intentional knock-on. Australia converted on the power play almost immediately, claiming a 17-12 lead.
Folau Niua contested several rucks on the next Australian possession, milking the two minutes until the Eagles were at full strength. He was penalized just as the sin bin expired. The Americans defended the attacking penalty play, forcing a turnover.
With just under 90 seconds on the clock, Stephen Tomasin finished off a methodical, multi-phase possession to level the playing field.
First Perry Baker looked away on one wing, but Porch reined him in. Then Isles had space, but Maurice Longbottom took a good angle, and Isles tried to squeeze out an offload to Barrett, but he lost it forward. In an odd decision, the referee deemed the knock-on intentional, giving Australia a second penalty play to win the match.
Two minutes into extra time, everyone on the field was exhausted, and the American defense found enough energy to turn Australia over one more time. Isles gashed up the middle of the field before being cut down, but Australia infringed in the tackle area. Niua tapped the ball into play and found Barrett on the corner for the game winner.