Rugby: Japan lose to World Cup rivals USA in Pacific Nations Cup
- Updated: July 26, 2015
July 26, 2015: Japan lost 23-18 to the USA at Bonney Field in California in the second matchday of the Pacific Nations Cup, just two months out from meeting the Eagles in Pool B of the Rugby World Cup.
Island rivals Fiji and Samoa earlier drew 30-30 at the same ground, while Tonga beat hosts Canada 28-18 in Burnaby.
USA out-half AJ MacGinty kicked six penalties to help his side bounce back from their defeat to Samoa, as the Eagles claimed a confidence-boosting win. MacGinty kicked his first of six penalties in the seventh minute to give the Eagles a lead for the first time in this year’s tournament and added a second before the end of the first quarter.
Harumichi Tatekawa and MacGinty traded penalties before some resolute defence restricted the Brave Blossoms to another penalty as half-time approached. However, that pressure ultimately told when fullback Yoshikazu Fujita raced through the Eagles’ defence to send Akihito Yamada over.
Japan took an 11-9 lead into the second half, but Tatekawa missed another penalty shortly after the restart. Soon after, Takudzwa Ngwenya was yellow carded for a deliberate knockdown and it gave the Japanese an advantage they seized upon, Holani Ryu Koliniashi going over from a scrum.
Japan held the momentum, but the Eagles managed to hold out and instead MacGinty cut the deficit to 18-12 with another penalty. They again had to defend resolutely, but when Ireland-born MacGinty cut the deficit to just three, USA looked the more likely to win.
With fresh impetus, the Eagles drove over the line from a lineout to hit the front at 23-18 with just over 10 minutes to go. The hosts spent much of that time on the defensive, but the chants and foot-stomping by the home crowd proved inspiring and the Eagles held firm to claim the win.
“The home support was great,” USA coach Mike Tolkin said. “People had a long day. They were here for two games and a lot of hours, but they were really great down to the wire. They helped us hang in there when it was tough at the end.”
In the earlier match, Samoa replacement Patrick Fa’apale kicked a 78th-minute penalty to secure a thrilling draw with Fiji. Both teams had both won their opening Pacific Nations Cup matches last weekend and it was a typical encounter between two Pacific Island nations, each hungry for a morale-boosting victory ahead of the World Cup.
Samoa fought back to make up a second-half deficit, but it was Fiji who hit the front again with 76 minutes on the clock, Volavola kicking a penalty that looked like it would be the match-winner until Fa’apale had the final say.
In Canada, Tonga defeated the hosts despite getting off to a slow start. The visitors led 23-18 before Steve Mafi sliced through the Canadian line and sent scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua over for his second try of the match and a 10-point lead.
Despite piling on the pressure in the final 10 minutes, Canada couldn’t find the scores they needed to make it five wins in a row against Tonga.
The Pacific Nations Cup comprises two pools of three in a round-robin competition, played at venues in Fiji, USA and Canada.
The pool stage concludes on Wednesday in Toronto when USA tackle Tonga, Fiji face Japan and hosts Canada meet Samoa at BMO Field. The final rankings will then determine the line-up on the finals day in Vancouver on August 3.
Source: World Rugby (www.worldrugby.org); Editing by SportAsia