The USA are reigning Olympic rugby champions, winning gold at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Games and boast a fine history of playing the game. Unfortunately past deeds proved no help to the USA Eagles on Sunday when Scotland beat them 39-16 at Elland Road Stadium, Leeds.
The Scots play too able, too fast and just too street smart for a USA team that still struggles for consistency at the very highest levels of the game.
The combatants had plenty to play for. Scotland were keen to secure a win as that ensured they moved above South Africa at the top of the pool. The USA were desperate for victory as they were the only team in the pool without a win.
USA head coach Mike Tolkin made just one change to his starting XV after last weekend’s loss to Samoa. He elevated Phil Thiel to the run-on side at hooker at the expense of Zach Fenoglio, who dropped down to the bench.
Tolkin’s team came out and played with real confidence and skill. Their tackling was immense at times and clearly rattled Scotland, especially among the outside backs. In the end Scotland’s big match experience proved the difference.
The contest started at a bright pace with USA pressuring Scotland into fundamental errors. They traded penalty kicks, and for most of the first period the USA pushed Scotland in the open but were undone in set piece play; scrums and lineouts too often saw the USA concede possession.
For their part, Scotland seemed unprepared for the USA. They were disjointed and played as if the 15 players on the pitch had only been introduced to each other for the first time in the last moments before they ran out. Crucial missed tackles barely made up for Scotland’s dominance and a lack of enterprise with the ball in hand meant Scotland’s surfeit of possession was too often negated by poor execution.
The USA’s first and ultimately only try came after an attack from the line-out and, after taking the ball through several phases inside Scotland’s 22, prop Titi Lamositele rumbled over from close quarters. Flyhalf Alan MacGinty duly converted. Another penalty goal followed just before half time and the USA had their tails up after an impressive opening half and it was Scotland 6 USA 13 at the close.
If the score had remained there a famous victory would have been complete. Alas for the USA, there was another 40-minute stanza to come.
The only time the USA looked like a genuine threat from then on was when they allowed the ball to move wide. Strong-running wingers Takudzwa Ngwenya and Blaine Scully did their best to inject themselves into the play but without the ball, a win was always going to be tough despite the enthusiasm of the USA.
Ultimately Scotland were patient and took control. They played strong, direct rugby for the last 20 minutes and will be happy to record the bonus point win ahead of their next match against South Africa. Tries by Duncan Weir (78), Matt Scott (64), WP Nel (53), Sean Maitland (46), and Tim Visser (41) speak of their dominance
Their performance was noticed elsewhere, too, as this tweet demonstrates.
30 – Scotland have now posted 30+ points in three of their last four Tests, having previously gone seven matches without doing so. Form.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) September 27, 2015
As for the USA, they will now have to regroup for their last two games at this World Cup.
Tries: Visser, Maitland, Nel, Scott, Weir
Con: Russell, Laidlaw 3
Pen: Hogg, Russell
Pen: MacGinty 3
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Fraser Brown, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Matt Scott.
USA: 15 Chris Wyles (c), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20. John Quill, 21 Danny Barrett, 22 Shalom Suniula, 23 Folau Niua.
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