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Ian Muir photo

Four-straight finals has resulted in four-straight silver medals for the USA, as the Eagles fell 21-5 to the All Blacks in the Sydney title match. The Kiwi defense and physicality at the breakdown, coupled with a series of unforced American errors, prevented the Eagles from ever getting out of the gates.

The result is that the USA will remain atop the World Series standings, tied for first with Fiji with 76 points. More importantly, the Eagles created two more points of separation between themselves and fifth-place England, who sit at 55 points. With each passing tournament where the USA does better than England, the Eagles take one more step closer to a top-four finish and early ticket to Tokyo.

In the final, Martin Iosefo won the opening kickoff, giving the Eagles the first possession. He also knocked on trying to make something happen, giving the All Blacks an attacking scrum they’d score from. Regan Ware was the recipient of the set-piece play, dotting down close enough to the sticks for the conversion to be slotted, putting the USA down 7-0 with the extras.

The Eagles weren’t starved of possession, just any space to work with. The All Black defense blanketed any attack until a pair of Kiwi penalties provided some daylight with a penalty play about 20 meters out, a platform the Eagles usually score from. However, Folau Niua and Danny Barrett collided on the set piece play, causing a knock-on, from which New Zealand would score with ease. The conversion put the All Blacks up 14-0 at halftime.

The blunders carried over into the second half, with Barrett being dragged into touch for another turnover at the onset. Martin Iosefo put Matai Leuta in for the USA’s first try with about three minutes to play, but the conversion was missed, cutting the deficit to 16.

Comments

Actually, according to World Rugby's standings, Fiji has dropped to third, with New Zealand now sharing the top spot with the Eagles. Fiji's non-gold tournaments were a fifth (Dubai) and fourth (Sydney), while New Zealand's were a fourth (Cape Town) and third (Hamilton), leaving Fiji four points back from New Zealand and the US.
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