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Team USA claimed its second-consecutive USA Sevens title Saturday, blanking Samoa 27-0 in the final at Sam Boyd Stadium. The win sees the Eagles perched atop the World Series standings alone halfway through the season. With five tournaments left, they're five points clear of second-place New Zealand, who they beat in the semifinals. They're now 3-3 against the All Blacks on the season and 3-2 in knockout rounds, a remarkable feat considering the USA didn't log its first win over New Zealand until 2016.
The team's primary goal this season is finsihing in the top four, as those teams punch their ticket to Tokyo 2020 with a top seed. The rest are left to qualify for the Olympics through regional tournaments. After the win, the Eagles are 31 points clear of fifth-place South Africa.
The win also snapped a four-final losing streak for the USA. They've made all five finals this season, but lost the first four, including two to New Zealand. As their reward, they have a favorable draw for next week in Vancouver, with South Africa, Chile and Wales.
Folau Niua’s opening kickoff didn’t go 10 meters, but Samoa played it anyway, starting with possession at midfield. The American defense held strong through a few phases before Matai Leuta earned a penalty at the breakdown, putting the home team on the front foot. From the set play, Ben Pinkelman used Leuta as a decoy to hold the outside defender and beat his man with a fend for the opening score.
Madison Hughes’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful, putting the Eagles up 5-0 after two minutes. Samoa’s second possession failed to make any ground either, ending in touch. The Eagles won the lineout, Iosefo barreled over a defender and offloaded to a streaking Leuta for the second try of the game. Hughes missed again – 10-0.
Samoa caught a break when a questionable knock-on was called against Iosefo on a play that would have potentially ended up in a score. The Eagles caught a break shortly after when Samoa went high on Niua, setting up an attacking lineout about 10 meters from pay dirt. Pinkelman nearly got a third try over right on halftime, but he was tackled into the pylon.
A candidate for try of the tournament extended the American lead the opening minute of the second half. Pinkelman squeezed off one of his favorite two-handed offloads to Niua, who cut back and found a sprinting Leuta, who crashed into three defenders. Tomasin caught the next offload, and as he was being brought down, got an offload of his own off to Hughes for a score under the posts. This one the captain converted, making it 17-0 with five minutes to play.
Pinkelman added another one with 70 seconds to go after a long, sustained possession with the entire team playing a role. Tomasin tried to run out the rest of the clock, taking a hit from Samoa right before full time. The Eagles used the remaining seconds well, with Maceo Brown adding one more score.