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Perry Baker letting it all out en route to a try. Ian Muir photo

The United States overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to beat South Africa for just the third time in history Saturday, sweeping its pool and finishing day one in London 3-0. The win sees the Eagles through to the Cup Quarterfinals, where they’ll meet rival Canada.

It was speed against speed very early on, as Seabelo Senatlo backed himself against Perry Baker, and Baker reeled him in and forced him to touch. The Bliztbokke wouldn’t have to wait long to score, as the Eagles were called for a penalty on the next possession, still in their own end, and Stephen Dippenaar slipped around Andrew Durutalo for the match’s first try.

After a forward pass by the USA in its own end, the Blitzbokke were on the doorstep of another try. While South Africa conceded a penalty, the Eagles couldn’t move the ball from danger, and Werner Kok scored in the corner following a lineout. The conversion put South Africa up 12-0, which would remain the count going into halftime.

With South Africa’s Kyle Brown in the sin bin for cynical play at the end of the first half, the Eagles got on the board with a try from Garrett Bender. He fed Danny Barrett into a hole, Barrett crashed hard, and Bender was there to catch the offload for the score.

Baker leveled the table a minute later, simply bursting around the edge of a six-man South African defense. Madison Hughes slotted the conversion, and the Eagles took a 14-12 lead with four minutes to go.

South Africa nearly regained the lead, as Dippenaar appeared to outrace Bender to a kicked ball in the try zone, but referee Anthony Moyes went to the video review and called a knock-on, giving the Eagles the ball back with a scrum. The Blitzbokke won the scrum, but Barrett earned a penalty in a tackle inches from the try line, saving the Eagle lead.

Carlin Isles extended it seconds later. Madison Hughes made a burst through the South African defense but was caught about 10 meters away from pay dirt. No one defended the blindside of the ruck, and Isles darted weak for the try, pushing the lead to 21-12 following the conversion.

There wasn’t enough time for the Blitzbokke to erase the two-score difference, and Folau Niua ran to touch as the clock expired.