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Before the USA had their first possession, Samoa had scored three tries and took five minutes off the clock on it’s way to a 26-15 victory in the Cup Quarterfinal of the Hong Kong 7s. Missed tackles led to two of Samoa’s first three tries and the Eagles failed to recover from the early deficit.
Samoa’s Lafaele Vaa recovered the opening kickoff and marched down the field with a series of phase play. Greg Leolofi broke Andrew Duratolo’s tackle and beat Danny Barrett as he fell backwards into the tryzone for Samoa’s first try. On the subsequent kickoff, Samoa recovered again and Samoa Toloa increased the advantage to 14-0 outracing his defenders to the corner.
Still without a possession, the USA committed a penalty off the kickoff where Samoa again took over. After looking for a weakness in the Eagles’ defense, Tila Mealoi broke the line and passed to Toloa for the perceived try. Samoa took their time before Alatasi Tupou touched the ball down for the try. Tila Mealoi converted the first three kicks for the 21-0 lead.
The Eagles finally got their hands on the ball with two minutes left, but weren’t able to do much with it. After a yellow card to Toloa for kicking the ball away, USA attempted to get the ball wide, but Barrett threw the ball out of bounds trying to get it to Isles. The half ended with Samoa up by 21 over the Eagles.
USA coach Mike Friday was seen passionately preaching to his team to go back to simple rugby, have a sense of urgency, and a belief in winning during the break. In the beginning of the second half, Barrett recovered the initial kickoff, but was taken out of bounds. The US tried to gain ground, but was frustrated by handling errors and penalties.
The Eagles’ first points of the match started off as a stolen lineout from Garrett Bender who offloaded to Maka Unufe. Unufe eluded two defenders to pass to Zachary Test dragging Tom Iosefo five meters into the tryzone. Madison Hughes’ kick was not good and the USA cut the lead to 16.
The Eagles were unable to capitalize on the momentum as Samoa’s Vaa recovered the kickoff and passed to Tupou. Tupou passed back to Vaa running in support and sprinted down the sideline. Perry Baker tackled Vaa short of the try line, but he rolled over for the try.
With a minute left, the Eagles responded with Baker breaking a 20-meter run and then Bender and Unufe carving out tough meters inside the 22. The hard work paid off as Test to beat his man for the try. In the last 15 seconds, the USA regained possession and Hughes looped around Test for the pass and put way a streaking Baker for the try in the corner.
As the final whistle sounded, USA’s late tries were not enough and the Eagles fell to Samoa, 26-15. Samoa advances to face New Zealand in the Cup Semifinals and USA will meet Argentina in the Plate Semifinals.