USA upset RWC 2015 opponents Japan , Fiji draw with Samoa

​Only two months out from their meeting at Rugby World Cup 2015, USA have claimed a confidence-boosting 23-18 victory over their Pool B opponents Japan in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup on Saturday.

The USA Eagles bounced back from a 21-16 defeat by another of Pool B rivals in Samoa last weekend to record a first win over the Brave Blossoms since their meeting at Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia.

The hosts started brightly, keeping hold of the ball for the majority of the first 20 minutes at Bonney Field, Mike Petri dictating the play with quick ball from the breakdown and causing a frustrated Japanese outfit to concede a number of penalties.

AJ 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 Pacific Nations Cup. He kicked a second just before the end of the first quarter and then captain Chris Wyles missed with an attempted drop goal.

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 full-back Yoshikazu Fujita raced through the Eagles’ defence to send Akihito Yamada over.

With an 11-9 lead to take into the second half, Tatekawa missed another penalty shortly after the restart but when Takudzwa Ngwenya was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-down it gave the Japanese an advantage they seized upon, Holani Ryu Koliniashi going over from a scrum.

The momentum was with Japan 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 once Ireland-born MacGinty cut the deficit to just three the Eagles 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. They 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,” Tolkin said. “People had a long day; they were here for two games and a lot of hours, but they were really greaat down to the wire. They helped us hang in there when it was tough at the end.”