Team USA’s preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup got off to a poor start with a disappointing 21-16 loss to Samoa this past weekend at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium. The match was the Eagles’ first appearance of the 2015 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup.
At half time the game was one-sided (21-3 in Samoa’s favor) after the U.S. defense evaporated in the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Eagles allowed tries first from Newcastle wing Alesana Tuilagi and moments later from Ah See Tuala, who took a chip-kick from Tuilagi in for the game’s second try.
Ah See Tuala is notable for having played as first five-eighth with New Zealand’s All-Black U-20 team before joining the Samoan national team. A missed penalty from Eagles flyhalf AJ Macinty ended a rough first half for team USA.
Yet, in the second half, as Samoa began to pull starters from the game, the U.S. mounted a near comeback. In the early part of the second half, Team USA scored two penalties (one the result of a late hit from Alesana Tuilagi ). Later still, Titi Lamositele scored a lone try for the U.S. team sparking a roar from the fans. While the U.S. threatened several times in the final five minutes, the 21-16 score line held.
Throughout the 80 minutes the referees ruled against the United States quite often, suggesting that the bias against the United States in international play as a “team which doesn’t know the rules,” continues.
Missing from the match was Todd Clever, nominally the Eagles captain and star flanker who also plays for the NTT Shining Arcs in Japan’s Top League. Following the match in a surprising statement, USA Rugby announced Clever had been discharged from the team for unexplained disciplinary reasons.
For Samoa, the win comes just a few weeks after its July 6 home test match against the All-Blacks — the first time Samoa has hosted New Zealand at home in Apia, Samoa’s capitol. The Samoan government declared the day a half-holiday.
Samoa lost the match by a respectable 25-16 margin, showing that its ranking as ninth in the world is well-earned. A Team Samoa coach, who spoke with FanRag Sports before the match against the U.S., noted, “Every test match is important especially for our side. Sometimes you might not have the budget to play as many test matches as you might want.”
Samoa’s population, spread across a series of volcanic islands, is well under 200,000. The Pacific Nations Cup is a rare moment for the island nation to compete as a team outside the World Cup and the occasional test match.
The same is also true for the United States, which is also using this tournament to prepare for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in September. Samoa along with Japan (12th) are placed in the same group as the United States (ranked 16th) in the World Cup. The U.S. will also face Scotland (11th) and South Africa, which is ranked second in the world after the All-Blacks.
This Friday, USA will take on Japan at Bonney Field in Sacramento (the home ground of Sacramento FC). Then on July 29, the United States will play Team Tonga in Toronto. Depending on the strength of this campaign, the United States will play its final match of the Pacific Nations Cup on August 3 in British Columbia.
The U.S. will then play two friendlies at home to complete its preparation campaign. First up is England’s Harlequin F.C., who last won the English Premiership in 2012, who will take on the Eagles at PPL Park in Philadelphia on August 30. Finally, the U.S. national team will head to Soldier Field to take on the Australia National Team on September 5.
In a friendly against the All-Blacks at Soldier Field in 2014, nearly 62,000 fans came out to see the United States fall 74-6 to the greatest rugby team in the world. Hopefully the U.S. team will continue to coalesce as a team ahead of their first 2015 Rugby World Cup match on September 20th at Brighton Community Stadium where they will get a second crack at Samoa.