The USA have won the Shield Final, 19-12 over Japan.
The USA started their Shield Final against Japan in good form. Matt Hawkins caught the restart and started a movement that ended up with the captain getting a return pass on the wing and running down the sideline. He attracted the attention of three Japanese players, but furhter infield Zack Test was on his horse and a hard, flat pass to the youngster saw Test away under the posts, much to the delight of the crowd.
Tai Enosa was good on the conversion and the Eagles took a quick 7-0 lead.
Japan worked their way downfield trying to get that score back. Big Sione Faamao Teaupa broke free of a Justin Boyd tackle, but he was whacked into touch by Colin Hawley.
The USA caught a break when referee Federico Anselmi didn't see an obvious forward pass to Hawkins. The captain played the whistle and weaved his way downfield before sending a pass identical to his setup of Test. This time it was Marco Barnard on the run. Barnard was caught, but he had Hawkins with him and the big prop carried two defensers over the line.
Enosa's conversion was once again good, and the Eagles led 14-0.
The USA tacling was solid, but that doesn't help if you don't mark your man, and Japan struck back at a complacent USA defense when Shohei Toyoshima was left unmarked on the wing and easily tiptoed the sideline to score. The conversion was good, and the first half ended 14-7 for the USA.
The Eagles, hit hard by injuries and with many players on the field carrying hurts, had Hawkins playing mostly on the wing. His presence was enough for Zack Test, who dummied to his captain to score on a movement begun with a bullocking run from Paul Emerick up the middle. 19-7 USA.
Japan came back, though, working the ball wide and back to the other sideline. A miscommunication between Roland Suniula and Emerick gave Faamao Teaupa his second scoring opportunity, which he took. Emerick made sure he stay out wide, which prevented the conversion. 19-12 USA.
COnfusion reigned for a disturbing moment after that. USA Coach Al Caravelli sent on his final two subs, Miles Craigwell and Taylor Mokate, but not enough players got the call to leave, so they gave up a free kick for having eight men on the field.
The Eagles held their D, though, and a great run from Enosa put the USA in the Japanese end. He grubbered to the wing where Barnard somehow came up with the ball. Japan committed a penalty, and, as the hooter sounded, another. Paul Emerick booted the ball 45 rows deep, and the USA had a Shield Title.
It wasn't perfect, but given how banged up the Eagles were, it was reward enough. Zack Test was a shining light for the entire weekend, and Emerick somehow made his way into all the action.