USA Edges Samoa 13-10

USA Edges Samoa 13-10

The USA is now 2-0 in the Pacific Nations Cup.

Aug 3, 2019 by FloRugby Staff
USA Edges Samoa 13-10

The USA defeated Samoa in somewhat hostile territory in Suva, Fiji Saturday, winning 13-10 on a wet, muggy Fijian afternoon to go 2-0 in the Pacific Nations Cup.

An early break up the left touchline from Martin Iosefo set up a short range AJ MacGinty penalty to give the US a 3-0 lead. Samoa responded quickly with a well-worked try in the 7th minute. 

After stringing together a few phases in Eagles territory, Samoa flyhalf AJ Alatimu found his winger Alapati Leuia on a short ball off his left hip and sent him through a gap. The wing did the rest and scampered in under the posts to give Samoa a 7-3 lead. 

Some classy kicks from MacGinty kept Samoa pinned inside its own 22 for much of the half. One such kick was a nifty grubber through that just barely rolled out the back of the try zone before Iosefo could dot it down. 

Pressure Yields Points, Finally

The Eagles were able to continually build pressure, and as a result Samoa conceded a number of penalties in the first half. The Eagles coughed up possession too frequently deep in Samoa territory to take full advantage, but they did find paydirt on one occasion. 

After a MacGinty kick into the corner set the US up for another lineout, halfback Ruben de Haas marshaled the forwards onward and inward toward the posts. As the forwards finally approached the middle of the field, MacGinty, standing at first receiver, reversed field and caught the ball from De Haas at full speed going to his left. With the Samoan defenders out of position, MacGinty was able to throw a few dummies and dive over from short range for the score. He added the extras from out wide to give the States a 10-7 lead. 

Samoa Denied Prime Chance

The rest of the half was physical, with the US dominating territory and possession but unable to score. Samoa found itself on the wrong end of a mistake from Nigel Owens in the 39th minute. Just as the Eagles were making a break in the wide left channel, Samoan wing Johnny Vaili stepped in to stop the two-on-one out wide. 

Had the US pass gone to hand, it could have been a try. However, just as USA fullback Will Hooley released the ball to Iosefo on the wing, Vaili stuck his leg out into mid-air and blocked the pass with his foot. He then scooped the ball with one hand and outran everyone to score. 

But Owens had already blown the play dead, saying his assistant referee had called a knock-on. He had misheard. The AR had actually said “off the foot.” Owens admitted his error and awarded Samoa a scrum, but the damage was done, and halftime came with the USA up 10-7.

A Slog

The second half was nothing other than a grinder. Both sides fought to a stalemate, with the Samoans taking the edge in possession and territory. If not for some huge tackles and turnovers from flanker John Quill, the US could have easily fallen behind.

For a period of about 15 minutes, the Eagles were trapped in their own half, but somehow  managed to keep Samoa from scoring. 

Finally, in the 76th minute, Samoa was able to tie it up. Owens penalized USA flanker Tony Lamborn for holding onto the ball in the ruck. Lamborn argued that the Samoans were off their feet. Owens disagreed and the Welsh referee added another 10 meters to the penalty for Lamborn's arguing. 

That much closer to the posts, center Henry Taefu had no problem slotting the penalty kick to tie the game 10-10.

Time ticked away and both sides were forced into errors from the massive physicality in wet, humid conditions. Players slipped and slid on the wet ground, and in the latter stages, it was the USA that saw chances disappear. This was partly because the Eagles were being rocked in the scrum, and Samoa contested the lineout well enough to ruin that source of possession, too.

Finally, with just two minutes to go, the Eagles got a lineout just outside the Samoa 22. After running through several phases, the Americans earned a penalty about 15 meters in from the right hand touch line. This set the stage for MacGinty to be the hero, and the best player on the Eagles didn’t disappoint. He squeezed his kick just inside the right upright as time expired, and the Eagle secured their second consecutive victory over Samoa. 

It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but some of that can be attributed to the wet, humid conditions on the night. At the end of the day, it was a gutsy performance from the US marked by a brave defensive stand in the second half.

The lack of set piece ball put them on the back foot, but some quick thinking from de Haas, who was excellent, and hard graft from the entire pack, especially John Quill and Ben Landry, saved them.

MacGinty saved them, but it was not a runner's paradise as the Eagles showed that they can figure out a way to win even if it means winning ugly. The road to Japan is getting shorter and shorter, and it’s time for coach Gary Gold to start solidifying his combinations before the start of the World Cup.

Japan handled Tonga 41-7 and Fiji beat Canada 38-13 to set up next week's games. Japan and the USA play for the PNC title.

PNC Scores And Standings

USA 13
Tries: MacGinty
Convs: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 2

Samoa 10
Tries: Leiua
Convs: Alatimu
Pens: Taefu

USA Lineup
1. Chance Wenglewski, 2. James Hilterbrand, 3. Paul Mullen, 4. Ben Landry, 5. Gregory Peterson, 6. Tony Lamborn, 7. John Quill, 8. Cam Dolan, 9. Ruben De Haas, 10. AJ MacGinty, 11. Martin Iosefo, 12. Paul Lasike, 13. Bryce Campbell, 14. Blaine Scully (C), 15. Will Hooley
Reserves: 16. Dylan Fawsitt, 17. David Ainu’u, 18. Paddy Ryan, 19. Nate Brakeley, 20. Ben Pinkelman, 21. Nate Augspurger, 22. Will Magie, 23. Madison Hughes

Samoa Lineup
1. Jordan Lay, 2. Seilala Lam, 3. James Lay, 4. Filo Paulo, 5. Senio Toleafoa, 6. Henry Stowers, 7. TJ Ioane, 8. Piula Fa’asalele, 9. Pele Cowley, 10. AJ Alatimu, 11. Alapati Leiua, 12. Henry Taefu, 13. Kieran Fonotia, 14. Johnny Vaili, 15. Ashee Tuala.
Reserves: 16. Elia Elia, 17. Logovi’i Mulipola, 18. Paul Alo-Emile, 19. Jack Lam, 20. Afa Amosa, 21. Auvasa Faleali’i, 22. Ray Lee-Lo, 23. JJ Taulagi, 24. Kane Leaupepe.