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After stumbling out of starting blocks in its first match at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, USA’s second match was a game of momentum swings that ended in a 24-24 draw against Samoa.
The Eagles built a 12-0 lead only to have Samoa score three tries in the last three minutes for the 19-12 advantage at the half. Samoa opened up the second half with a try but the USA battled back with two Junior Waqavesi tries to tie it at 24 all. John Rodriguez had a shot at the lead with a conversion attempt right in front of the posts, but he missed. Both teams had an opportunity to score in the final minute but the game ended in a draw.
Things couldn’t have begun better for the Eagles as Ty Al-Jiboori used his speed around the corner for two tries in the opening minutes. The first was right off the kickoff when the ball was swung wide and the second happened after a poach and subsequent yellow card. After a penalty inside the 22, Al-Jiboori took the space on the outside for the try. Only one of the conversions was true and the USA led 12-0.
After the restart, the Eagles misplayed the ball allowing the Samoans to streak down the sideline. After zig-zagging its opponent with fancy footwork, Samoa scored with its first possession in USA territory. Samoa kept up the momentum and used a nifty chip and chase with no sweeper to score its second try. Not done with no time left, Samoa stole the restart and used an overload on the wing to push its lead to 19-12 at the half.
Samoa kept the momentum going into the second half when it took a gap over 60 meters to increase the advantage to 24-12. Following the kickoff, Al-Jiboori ran the ball into Samoa’s half only to get caught from behind. Samoa poached the ball but the USA got it right back and Waqavesi trotted in for the try in the confusion. The conversion narrowed the lead to 24-19 with three and a half minutes left.
Off the restart, the USA regained possession on a penalty and Jasper Green powered his way into the 22. The Eagles kept it tight inside grinding out the meters. Once inside the five, Waqavesi took it the rest of the way with a dive under the posts. Tied at 24-24, Rodriguez missed the makeable conversion.
In the final minute, USA got the ball after a penalty on the restart. The Eagles set up their offense but turned it over after a not releasing the ball. Samoa tried to make a last chance effort to score but the game ended in a penalty.
The USA’s next matches are Sunday at 12:15 p.m. ET against South Africa and at 3:45 p.m. ET versus Japan. The games can be seen on the Olympic Channel and its website.