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The United States scored their second-ever win over South Africa, 22-5, in the Plate Semis, having bagged the first in pool play a day earlier.
The Eagles started the match looking to control the contact point and were rewarded for it. South Africa had the ball first, and Cecil Afrika stood offside at a ruck until Nick Edwards blew him off the ball, drawing an obstruction call. Shalom Suniula quick tapped and flung it out to Zack Test, who went in for the score. Suniula hit the difficult conversion.
Brett Thompson took the restart, and a couple of offloads had the Eagles looking dangerous again, but when one pass hit the deck, and Folau Niua knocked on trying to scoop it up, South Africa took possession. Some incredible hustle defense by Nick Edwards was undone by a penalty at the breakdown called on Andrew Durutalo, and South Africa was able to score. Afrika missed the conversion, leaving the USA up two.
The Eagles extended their lead with a great team try that went through just about everyone’s hands before Suniula took it in for the score. Brett Thompson delivered a big fend to Afrika on the run, and Durutalo, who helped start the break, continued well in support. The conversion was missed, so USA led 12-5 at the break.
After clearing the lines with kicks a couple of times and staving off South Africa’s attack a couple of times, the Eagles stretched the lead with a nice set piece play. Suniula ran one way, dummied a switch and handed off to a sprinting Test, who burst through a South African tackle and went for a long range score. Suniula converted, putting USA up 17-5 with just over two minutes to play.
The Eagles drove the final nail in the coffin with a Matt Hawkins try. Durutalo made a nice open field tackle and single handedly won the counter-ruck, giving USA the ball back with an overlap on the side. Colin Hawley committed the last defender and dished to the captain who had nothing but green in front of him.
After losing two heartbreakers to Australia, the second one controversially, the Eagles have now beaten South Africa twice in a row, and they have the chance to score a third-straight win over Fiji in the Plate Final and a third-straight Plate Championship.
“I think we keep getting beaten down and keep having to pick ourselves up,” said Hawkins after beating his native South Africa. “I think since Japan we’ve really realized what we can do with the potential that we have. We trust each other and we’ve been playing good rugby.”
Tries: Thompson (2), Hawkins, Suniula
South Africa 5