The Eagles got possession early and systematically worked into the New Zealand half. Maka Unufe, rewarding Coach Friday for slotting him into the starting lineup, put the United States on top with a spin around a tackle for a try under the post. Stephen Tomasin added the conversion for the lead. USA captain Madison Hughes, clearly suffering the ill-effects of the past two days did not play. After the Eagles forced a turnover, a penalty at midfield gave the United States the man advantage. New Zealand managed to get a turnover, and set into playing suffocating ball to kill the penalty. An unfortunate error for the New Zealanders gave team USA an attacking scrum just inside the New Zealand half with under three minutes left. A pass out to Perry Baker drifted just enough to allow the officials knock on. The stoppage brought New Zealand back to full strength. The Scrum feed came at 1:24 left in the half. New Zealand won the scrum but a Tim Mikkelson offload led to an eventual turnover. A penalty at the USA twenty-two gave possession back to New Zealand, and DJ Forbes crossed in the corner with a shot from big Danny Barrett to keep him in the corner. The American air whipping down the pitch made the conversion impossible, preserving a two-point lead.
New Zealand made a strong contest of the restart, but the Eagles brought it in. Hammering defense from New Zealand turned the ball over, putting the Americans under pressure early in the 8th minute. Tim Mikkelson caught an angle just past Ben Pinkelman for a try halfway toward the left touch line. A well-struck conversion attempt stared right at the face of the uprights and refused to cross, bending back in field. The ensuing restart rolled into touch, giving the USA a lineout. Danny Barrett soon ended up with the ball and charged down the pitch, Niua in support clearing a three-man New Zealand ruck. A penalty soon followed. Niua took the tap and was almost through, a few more Eagles had their chances but the man who started it all finished it off: Barrett dotted it under the post and Tomasin added the two points. The restart came with 2:12 left. The wind carried the ball just a bit, but Mikkelson had no trouble taking it in. A . Simone Molia then used four dummy passes to confuse the AMerican defense to score at 1:40 left. The final kickoff came with twenty seconds left. The Eagles took the ball, the crowd roared Danny felt the energy and tore into the twenty-two, maintained possession, and the USA won a penalty ten-meters out. With New Zealand standing on the try line and the crowd screaming USA. Andrew Durutalo became the hero for the bronze medal and the fifth, count that. Fifth victory over New Zealand in the past two years. Prior to two years ago, the USA had never beaten New Zealand. For the first time ever, team USA has the third-place win at home. USA 19, New Zealand 15.
After heartbreaking losses to perennial powers England and South Africa, a win over New Zealand at the end tastes all the more sweet. Any thoughts that this season might be a regression seem to be long gone.