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Ian Muir photo

Team USA opened the new season with a 22-14 loss to Argentina in the tournament opener in Dubai Friday. The Eagles struggled with their handling throughout the contest, while Argentina committed fewer errors. The game was marred by the loss of World Rugby 7s Player of the Year Perry Baker in the first minutes.

Baker got his hand on the opening kickoff, and Ben Pinkelman gathered it on the ground. However, the possession was short lived, as Stephen Tomasin was tackled into touch. Some shoddy tackling by the Eagles and tough running by Argentina saw Fernando Luna score in the corner after a series of phases.  

Baker took a knock during the run of play and was taken off for a head injury assessment. Carlin Isles came in for Baker, who wouldn’t return.

The Eagles claimed the ensuing restart but weren’t sharp. Folau Niua first floated a long cutout pass that Ben Pinkelman had to dive to catch, and then Danny Barrett threw a wayward pass in Isles’ general direction, but it went to touch.

The Eagles managed to wrestle the ball back through the lineout, and Isles tiptoed up the touch line and threw an offload back inside to Niua, who worked it to Tomasin, and he blazed in for the USA’s first score. The Eagles converted where Argentina didn’t, making it 7-5 with two minutes to play in the half.

The lead wouldn’t last, as Conrado Roura found a gap in the American defense when Martin Iosefo put in a half-hearted tackle attempt, and Roura just ran through it. The conversion was made, putting the Argentines up 12-7 with the restart to come. It bounced into touch, ending the half.

Isles played a big role in the USA’s second score at the onset of the second half. He sniped up the weakside of the first ruck and offloaded back inside. Two carries later he took an inside pass himself under the sticks. After the easy conversion, the Eagles led by two.

The pendulum swung back Argentina’s way when Pinkelman was called for not releasing in a ruck. Argentina played the ball quickly wide, and Roura beat the defense for his second score.

The Eagles would have one more opportunity to reclaim the lead, but Argentina appeared to get away with a pair of knock-ons en route to a Franco Sabado game winner.