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The United States started slowly against Japan in the opening match of Wellington 7s, falling behind by a try. But 41-straight points off six tries saw the Americans to 1-0 with a 41-5 victory.
The Eagles took possession first, but Danny Barrett was called for holding on in the tackle, giving Japan possession. The Cherry Blossoms kicked for territory, and went wide from the set piece. Carlin Isles looked to bring down Lomano Lemeki, but the hard-charging wing was deemed not held, bounced up and scurried in. The touch line conversion was missed, and the United States trailed, 5-0.
Isles leveled the table at the end of the fourth minute, picking up a loose ball and squirting through an arm tackle for a try. Captain Madison Hughes slotted the conversion, so the Eagles, who had looked disjointed early on, led 7-5.
The lead was added to not long after the kickoff. Lemeki made a probing run, but was isolated with no support. Maka Unufe stole the ball in the tackle, offloaded to Danny Barrett, and the big man ran over a defender en route to the try line. Hughes’ kick made it 14-5 with about 30 seconds to go in the half. After trading penalty advantages, both teams headed into intermission with the score unchanged.
Isles dotted down a second time early in the second half, rounding the corner off a lineout play. He had to escape a Lemeki tackle on the perimeter before swerving past the sweeper and into the try zone. Hughes stayed perfect with a third conversion – USA 21-5.
Folau Niua then strung together three successful dummies to break down the Japanese defense and add another score. Hughes converted again, making it 28-5 with a couple of minutes left.
Andrew Durutalo tacked on another as Japan mishandled a lineout on its own five meter line. Durutalo picked up the loose ball and plopped into pay dirt. Baker practically walked one more over the line after scooping up an offload in the middle of a surrendered Japanese defense. Hughes converted the latter, giving the Eagles a great point differential to start the day. With France looking dangerous after nipping favorite South Africa, those points could be the difference between the Cup or Bowl rounds for the USA on day two.
Tries: Isles (2), Baker, Barrett, Durutalo, Niua
Cons: Hughes (5)