The Eagles came out flat in their Bowl Quarterfinal match against Fiji and lost 29-12.
They should have been on the receiving end of the opening kickoff, but Folau Niua let the ball bounce directly in front of him. Fiji took the first possession, during which the Eagles failed to make a single tackle, and Stefano Cakau scored to take a 5-0 lead. The conversion attempt was missed.
Like against Spain in pool play, the Eagles failed to link up on simple passes and hold onto the ball in contact, throwing away any early possession. And like in pool play against Spain, referee Bryan Arciero levied some harsh calls against the USA at the breakdown.
Joji Raqamate scored in the fifth minute to extend Fiji’s lead to 10-0. Again the conversion attempt was missed.
In the seventh minute, the USA put together its first meaningful possession of the game when Luke Hume looked to run instead of pass. He drew the Fijian defense to one sideline before giving the ball up, and a streaking Colin Hawley managed to catch a pass cleanly and run easily between the posts. Folau Niua converted to pull USA within three at 10-7.
Fiji wasn’t done with the first half, though, and Ilai Tinai scored Fiji’s third try in extra time. Raqamate converted, making it 17-7 at intermission.
Hawley took the kickoff at the onset of the second half and the Eagles went immediately on the offensive. Arciero called some penalties against Fiji at the breakdown, and Zack Test dove in off of a penalty play from five meters out to put the Eagles down five at 17-12.
Fiji regained a two-score lead off of an overlap created by too many Eagles staying on the ground too long after being penalized at yet another ruck. Nemani Negusa scored this one, bowling over a lackluster tackle attempt from Nick Edwards on his way. Raqamate converted to put Fiji up 24-12.
The Eagles’ attempt to pull back into the contest was thwarted by a knock from Andrew Durutalo in contact. Fiji nearly scored off of its first probe into the American 22, but Matt Hawkins made a try-saving tackle and pushed the Fijian ball carrier into touch. There was miscommunication at the ensuing lineout, as Shalom Suniula threw the ball in, Zack Test was never put in the air, and Jone Vota intercepted the wayward pass for an easy try.
Carlin Isles came on in with less than three minutes left to play and was never given the ball with any space, which has been the case all tournament. Durutalo and Niua both had the opportunity to give him the ball with room to work on the wing in this game, but opted for contact instead.
Up next for the Eagles is a Shield Semifinal date with Wales.