Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
I was a nailbiter though.
The USA was drubbed in their opening match of Day 2 as the host team, Australia, put the USA to the sword. Australia ran out to a 24-0 lead at halftime and cruised to a 36-0 blanking of the USA.
Brackin Karauria-Henry crossed the line for four tries in the blowout.
The USA’s newest football convert, Tommy Saunders, got his first taste of IRB Series action when he came on at the 4:00 minute mark in the second half.
The lopsided loss left the USA in a rough situation. First and foremost, they needed to defeat Niue, but they also needed Australia to knock off England in the final game of the day.
Nerves were tight and unlike their earlier opponents, Niue made the USA earn their victory. Niue got on the board first with a try from Tony Pulu and conversion to take an early 7-0. The USA answered back midway through the first half with an unconverted try by Matt Hawkins to cut the lead to 7-5.
The score held up until halftime, but the USA remained calm and took control of the second half immediately.
Nick Edwards broke off a try 0:18 seconds into the second half and the USA never looked back. Kevin Swiryn, Marco Barnard, and Zach Pangelinan added tries to finish the score at 29-7 in favor of the USA.
That left the USA’s final outcome in the hands of the super-hot Australian squad.
England took an early lead and clung to a 12-7 lead at halftime. Australia evened up the score at 12-12 shortly into the second half when the defenses took over. Both teams were held scoreless until extra time, when Liam Gill dotted down a game clinching try to seal victory for Australia 17-12.
The win came with a huge sigh of relief for the USA as it also clinched their trip to the Cup round and more IRB Series points.
The USA’s Quarterfinal opponent is Wales, who topped their pool with a 2-1 record. The two teams have met twice this season (Dubai & George) with Wales coming out on top both times. Their last meeting was a barnburner as Wales scored at the death to defeat the USA 15-12. Compared to the other possible Quarterfinal opponents (South Africa, New Zealand, or Samoa), the USA has to be pleased with the draw.
While not an easy game, by any means, the USA is on more even terms with Wales than some of the other Quarterfinalists. Take a look at Australia. After rolling through pool play, they are rewarded with a Quarterfinal tilt with Fiji.