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For the second time Saturday, the Americans
pushed a favored Pacific Island side to the brink, but fell short in the
upset bid, losing 21-14 to Fiji. Livai Ikanikoda opened the scoring for
Fiji in the first minute with a converted try. Justin Boyd leveled things
with his own a couple minutes later, and Nese Malifa converted.
Fiji was able to take a lead into intermission with a Watisoni Votu try in the sixth minute, also converted, leaving the Eagles down 14-7 at intermission.
Like in the first half, the Fijians struck with a converted try in the opening minute of the second. Miteli Nacagilevu touched it down.
And like against Samoa earlier in the day, the Eagles attempted to surge back, but started the comeback bid too late.
On an American possession in Fiji territory in the fourth minute of the second half, back-to-back penalties at the breakdown led to a Fijian yellow card and a Matt Hawkins try under the posts. With the Malifa conversion, the Eagles trailed by just seven, but time was quickly melting off the clock, as a referee discussion and the process of binning the Fijian offender put Hawkins through in the sixth minute and Malifa’s conversion in the seventh.
The Eagles challenged the restart, forcing a scrum, and Shalom Suniula pestered the Fijian scrumhalf into a slap pass out of the set piece. Suniula beat the flyhalf to the ball, but only by enough to toe it into the try zone. Suniula lost the next race and was unable to force the ball down in pay dirt for the potential tying score, leaving the Americans down 21-14 at full time.
Now 0-2, the Eagles aren’t entirely out of cup contention. In order to finish second in their pool, which has been the toughest of the tournament, they need to upend Scotland in their final Saturday match. They also need Samoa to beat Fiji, and the worse the score line, the better. The point and try differentials between Scotland, Fiji and USA are all fairly close.