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Team USA’s dream of reaching the cup final on home soil will continue to be just that after a 20-17 loss to South Africa Sunday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. This marks three years in a row the Eagles have bowed out in the semifinals in Sin City and four all-time.  

The game started as well as could be expected with the home team jumping out to a 12-0 lead, but South Africa stormed back with three-straight tries and held on at the very end to escape with a win.

Folau Niua’s opening kick lofted high in the air as usual, but the extraordinary wind, expected to reach 60 miles-per-hour, blew it back to the wrong side of the 10-meter line, but since it went more than 10 in the air, it was deemed legal. The USA claimed the ball, and Niua took it into contact setting up a series of offloads leading to a Tomasin try.

The next kickoff did the same thing, and the Eagles again collected it. This time Durutalo was held up in the try zone. Off the ensuing scrum, Niua dummied his way through the South African line and scored under the posts. The second conversion was made, putting the USA up 12-0.

The Blitzbokke finally got their first possession off the next kickoff and patiently went through several phases before the American defense broke. It was Philip Snyman touching down in the corner, leaving Cecil Afrika’s kick very difficult in the swirling wind. It missed, leaving the USA up seven.

The lead was almost erased altogether when Stephen Tomasin threw an errant pass under pressure, but an interception attempt was knocked on. After the scrum, the Blitzbokke secured a pick and scored shortly thereafter. The conversion was missed, so the Eagles clung to a two-point lead at halftime.

South Africa used the wind to its advantage much the way the USA did to start the second half, catching the kickoff closer to midfield than 10 meters away from it. Martin Iosefo lagged in the defensive line, and Werner Kok spotted the gap and raced in for the go-ahead score. It was again missed, 15-12 to South Africa.

The Eagles got their first possession of the second half when the ball squirted free from a Blitzbokke ruck near the touch line and Perry Baker scooped it up. Maka Unufe, who came on for Iosefo, made a half break on the right side, setting up Danny Barrett on the left. He soaked up the last defender and put Durutalo away for a try. Unconverted, it put the Eagles up 17-15.

South Africa won the possession back shortly after the restart, but Ben Pinkelman reversed it in short order. However, a penalty for holding on in the tackle against Hughes gave the Blitzbokke a prime scoring opportunity which they took advantage of. With 90 seconds left, the Eagles trailed 20-17.

They took possession deep in their own end on the kickoff, but stout South African defense left them with few options, and Hughes chucked a kick deep into the other end that rolled out of bounds. South Africa then had a lineout five meters from their defensive try line and with about five seconds on the clock, but Barrett stole it in the air, giving the Eagles a last gasp effort at the death. It was short lived, though, as South Africa turned the ball over in the breakdown immediately and kicked to touch for the win.

Match Details

03.05.17 Las Vegas, NV
Final Score
South Africa