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Japan downed the USA 28-18 Sunday in Gloucester, England to round out both teams' World Cup campaigns. The Cherry Blossoms trailed for just two minutes in the contest, and the Eagles were within a score of the Japanese on multiple occasions.
The Americans kicked off to start the game, and a Japanese knock-on gave the Eagles an attacking scrum right away. They secured possession, but a forward pass from the ruck by scrumhalf Mike Petri sullied a scoring chance. Japan coughed the ball up quickly thereafter. The Brave Blossoms then infringed at the breakdown by not rolling away quickly enough, and AJ MacGinty slotted a penalty kick to put the USA up 3-0 after four minutes.
Japan rebutted immediately. With a penalty advantage on, flyhalf Kosei Ono kicked through the Ametican defense and recovered. The Blossoms moved the ball wide quickly, and Kotaro Matsushima found space outside the scrambling Eagles for a try. Ayumu Goromaru converted, pushing Japan ahead 7-3.
In the 20th minute the Eagles opted for a five-meter lineout instead of a very makeable shot at goal. The gamble didn't pay off, as the short throw was knocked on. However, Goromaru's kick to clear the Japanese line didn't get far, and the USA went back on attack. After 15 phases and several pick-and-goes, the ball made it to Takudzwa Ngwenya's hands in space for a try. The score was uncoverted.
Japan won the ensuing restart through Yoshikazu Fujita and mauled over not long after. Goromaru converted and added a penalty, making it 17-8 to the Blossoms through 32 minutes.
The Americans saw another great scoring chance go begging right up against halftime, as pressure from a kick saw Japan carry the ball into its own try zone, giving the USA an attacking scrum. The pressure went unrewarded, though, and the Blossoms would take the two-score lead into the break.
Goromaru slotted another penalty at the onset of the second half, extending the Japanese lead to 20-8. MacGinty got those points back in the 55th minute, making it 20-11. Eric Fry then racked up back-to-back penalties, resulting in a yellow card in the 62nd minute. Japan scored quickly in the power play, pushing the gap to 25-11.
Sparked by a pair of gashing runs by 7s stalwarts Zack Test and Danny Barrett, the Eagles went on the front foot for the first time in the second half, creating space on the wing for Wyles to run through. MacGinty converted, pulling the USA within a score at 25-18. However, Goromaru slotted a third penalty in the 77th minute to make it a two-score difference again and ice the win.
The result was never going to affect the tournament's knockout stages after Scotland beat Samoa Saturday, but it does give Japan a consolation prize. The Blossoms are now the first team to ever win three pool matches at the World Cup and not advance to the quarterfinals. The loss drops the USA to 0-4, handing the Eagles their fourth winless World Cup.