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USA Comeback Falls Short

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USA Comeback Falls Short

Seamus Kelly tries to find some space. David Barpal photo.

A second-half surge saw the USA record a respectable 21-16 loss to Samoa tonight in San Jose in front of 10,017 fans. Samoa was held scoreless in the second half, and that was a big triumph, but the visitors’ 21 points was just enough for the victory.

The USA played a lot of defense that first 40 minutes, and that’s not a place one wants to be against a thumping side like Samoa. As the half wore on, the Eagles got a little loose – allowing breaks around the fringe, struggling to get back onside from a quick-recycling ball. The physicality of the game was evident with many players slow to get up after long sequences. Eagle prop Mate Moeakiola had to come off after 30 minutes.

Samoa ballcarriers drew two tacklers, and the team was still able to move the ball away quickly, sometimes to the team’s detriment as the ball did skitter on the ground a few times, but with so much possession, the visitors sometimes took risks.

That fatigue showed itself on offense, too. Although there were highlights, the few times that the Eagles attacked in Samoa’s 22 meter, the USA lost possession when a ballcarrier went into contact slowly supported. That scuttled two early scoring opportunities, and also ended the game.

The USA gave up some costly penalties that resulted in three first-half kicks from Samoa flyhalf Patrick Faapale.Taku Ngwenya, in a call that could have gone either way, held onto a tackled ballcarrier when there was no need, 3-0. Faapale missed on a not-releasing penalty around eight minutes in, but connected 15 minutes in after a John Quill early break from the scrum and Erik Fry penalty in a lineout maul put the flyhalf in range, 6-0. The penalty on Quill was, on replay, very harsh as he was deemed to have kicked the ball when the No. 8 still had it in the scrum, when in fact the ball was clearly out.

MacGinty kept it close on the scoreboard with the USA’s, and his, first points of the game. The debutant sent an ill-advised chip kick in traffic that fortuitously landed in Danny Barrett’s hands. The ball worked to the opposite sideline and the pressure forced a not-releasing penalty, 6-3.

Penalties aside, Samoa worked to get in scoring position, and captain Alesana Tuilagi did his job on the wing. He accounted for some of Samoa’s more memorable, jumbotron-worthy highlights, as would-be tacklers bounced off of him. He ran a fantastic line off for a try off of fullback Ah See Tuala, who returned a long, aimless MacGinty clearance, stepping around Thretton Palamo in the process.

Tuilagi almost had two in the first half - his was charging along down the sideline when Danny Barrett flew in to slam him into touch.

After Samoa stole the ball out of the ruck in their own 22, Tuilagi put the ball into play when he should have been pushed into touch, chipping the ball to centerfield. An exciting sprint to the USA tryline ensued. The Eagles were penalized, and with the Eagles slow to get onside, Tuilagi popped a kick wide to Tuala for an easy try and a 21-3 lead.

On the halftime buzzer, MacGinty attempted a 40m penalty – had the length but was off center. Samoa took a 21-3 lead into the break.

The USA chipped away at the lead with two MacGinty penalties at minutes 53 and 64 - 21-9. the second of those came after a surging Barrett eightman pick, followed by a late hit on Blaine Scully that begged for a yellow card (not given).

Samoa’s hands became untidy, and some reinforcements in guise of Scott LaValla, Andrew Suniula, and Titi Lamositele (who came on near the 30-minute mark) helped matters. Replacement scrumhalf Mike Petri picked up where Shalom Suniula left off, finding a couple of seams around the breakdown, and nearly set up the Eagles’ first try when he found MacGinty on his hip. The flyhalf rightly held onto the ball as Chris Wyles called for the final pass, as a Samoan defender was ready for the bat-down. Instead, the Eagles went to work picking-and-going at the line. After a held-up attempt, Lamositele outstretched over the line for the USA’s first try. MacGinty handled the extras for the 21-16 scoreline.

A final series saw some good phases into Samoa’s 22, but the effort to go quickly saw a ballcarrier go unsupported and penalized. A final kick to touch after two minutes of injury saw the game end. The USA were within five meters of the tryline on numerous occasions, and only at the end did they come away with a try. Certainly they will lament those missed opportunities.

Danny Barrett was outstanding at No. 8, making a try-saving tackle in the first-half and going 40 meters on an eightman pick that set up Blaine Scully and resulted in a penalty goal.

The front row of Eric Fry, Phil Thiel, and Lamositele when he came on, did all sorts of work, and MacGinty, once he stopped kicking for no reason, was impressive as a runner and passer.

But the injection of experienced players like Petri, Scott LaValla, and Andrew Suniula, was very noticeable, as they handled the ball better and rescued difficult situations better.

Zack Test showed well in limited time, and Scully was really strong, while captain Wyles would like a couple of mistakes back so he could try again. Overal Wyles did well, and Seamus Kelly had some good moments at center, also.

"We just had a week together but in the second half we showed each other we can fight," said Wyles. "It was disappointing, thought, because I thought we'd be in it for the win."

It's another close loss to Samoa, but a game where the USA players learned a lot about playing international rugby.

In other PNC action, Japan looked solid and Canada looked mistake-riddled as Japan won 20-8.

Standings are below.


USA 16
Tries: Lamositele
Convs: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 3


Samoa 21
Tries: A Tuilagi, Tuala
Convs: Faapale
Pens: Faapale 3


PNC 2015                  
Team W L T Pf Pa PD BT BL Pts
Japan 1 0 0 20 6 14 0 0 4
Fiji 1 0 0 30 22 8 0 0 4
Samoa 1 0 0 21 16 5 0 0 4
USA 0 1 0 16 21 -5 0 1 1
Tonga 0 1 0 22 30 -8 0 0 0
Canada 0 1 0 6 20 -14 0 0 0


'Men's Eagles | v. Samoa
1. Eric Fry
2. Phil Thiel
3. Matekitonga Moeakiola
4. Hayden Smith
5. Greg Peterson
6. Cameron Dolan
7. John Quill
8. Danny Barrett
9. Shalom Suniula
10. AJ MacGinty
11. Blaine Scully
12. Thretton Palamo
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Chris Wyles (C)

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Zach Fenoglio
17. Chris Baumann
18. Titi Lamositele
19. Scott LaValla
20. Andrew Durutalo
21. Mike Petri
22. Andrew Suniula
23. Zack Test

Samoa | v. USA
1. Sakaria Taulafo
2. Manu Leiataua
3. Anthony Perenise
4. Teofilo Paulo
5. Faatiga Lemalu
6. TJ Ioane
7. Jack Lam
8. Vavae Tuilagi
9. Vavao Afemai
10. Patrick Faapale
11. Alesana Tuilagi (C)
12. Faialaga Afamasaga
13. Paul Perez
14. Sinoti Sinoti
15. Ah See Tuala

Samoa | Reserves
16. Motu Matuu
17. Viliamu Afatia
18. Jake Grey
19. Maselino Paulino
20. Oneone Faafou
21. Pele Cowley
22. Johnny Leota
23. Gaatoina Autagavaia

Related Articles:

Eagles Need to Make an Impression

Samoa Saturday Starts World Cup Year

What USA Learned from the Pan-Am Games