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For the first time ever, Team USA is going to be playing for gold on home soil. The final will air live on ESPNews at 4:30 p.m. PT. The Eagles beat Fiji 19-7 in the semifinals Sunday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. It marks just the fourth time in history the Americans have made the final of a World Series tournament. Their only championship came in 2015 in London.
Awaiting the Eagles in the final is Argentina, which beat Fiji 12-10 in the other semifinal. USA is 1-3 against the Argentines this season, but the last match went to the Eagles. They beat Argentina 31-12 in the final of the Challenge Trophy in Hamilton, New Zealand last tournament.
Danny Barrett knocked on the opening restart. Fiji’s Akashi Sovita Naduva made a break to USA’s five-meter line before Perry Baker tackled him to touch. Fiji was penalized in a subsequent breakdown, allowing Niua to kick the ball to touch. Fiji was penalized again for playing the man in the air during the lineout.
However, the Eagles wouldn’t capitalize, as Ben Pinkelman threw a forward pass to Barrett. Had he let it go a touch sooner, it might have resulted in a try. Fiji scored on the ensuing possession, with Sevuloni Mocenacagi stiff-arming Martin Iosefo and rumbling in. The conversion was good – 7-0.
The Eagles did manage to get ball in hand in the offensive end before the half, but a Niua offload attempt went to ground, and Pinkelman knocked on the pickup.
Fiji opted to kick deep again. On the first phase, Niua had the opportunity to pass it to Perry Baker with space, but instead chose to take it on his own. Pinkelman saved the possession in the breakdown, and the ball was shipped to Baker, this time with very little space. No matter, he manipulated the Fijian defense, tip-toed down the sideline, and then cut back up the middle of the field for the leveling try.
Martin Iosefo skied to win the restart, landing hard. Niua made a gash up the middle of the field, but his offload to Maka Unufe was low, resulting in a knock-on about 15 meters out. Luckily, Fiji knocked on the out pass from the scrum, giving the Eagles a five-meter scrums. The Fijian defense pushed the Eagles back, but a high tackle of Barrett by Naduva gave them another prime platform. Matai Leuta shrugged off a tackler on the set play, scoring from short range.
Niua’s conversion was good, putting the home team up 14-7 with 100 seconds left. Unufe was hurt on the restart, and with him on the ground Baker made a line break. He passed inside to Iosefo, who found Niua on his inside, who dealt it back out to Baker on the wing for the try. The conversion was missed, but the damage was done.