Imperfect, the USA is into the semifinals of the Pan-Am Games where they will play Canada.
The Eagles defeated Guyana 24-12, but Guyana benefitted from a little bit of luck to make it that close. Still the USA made some frustrating mistakes – committing penalties when they didn’t need to, and not punishing some Guyanan mistakes.
The USA wanted to retain the kickoffs in this match and did a better job of that. They didn’t win the opening kick, but were up in numbers. Shalom Suniula made a tackle and forced a holding-on penalty, and the USA quickly spun the ball to Maka Unufe, who made no mistake and touched down in the corner. 5-0 USA.
Guyana came right back with their best sequence of the day. The Eagles defended well but Unufe, playing in his first tournament, was caught too close to the ruck, leaving the Guyana right side unmarked. An easy weakside score for Guyana and a 5-5 tie.
The Americans found themselves inside their 22 after the restart. However, Folau Niua saw numbers on the wing, and lofted a well-weighted kick out wide, where Blaine Scully gathered the bouncing ball and rumbled and thundered 70 meters for a try and a 12-5 lead.
The Eagles retained the restart and as time wound down, they attacked again. Mile Pulu and Unufe combined to get within a few feet of the line, and then Niua picked and scored in the corner.
“It’s just down to the boys,” Niua told RUGBYMag.com. “It’s a lot of work to keep up with those guys. The important thing is communication, let them know where I am.”
The try right before halftime would have made Head Coach Al Caravelli happy, and he would have wanted a try early in the second half, too. However, Guyana caught a break. Attacking to their left they had to beat Unufe and Niua. Unufe made his tackle, but Niua, as he slid out to make his tackle, stepped on somebody’s boot and fell over. Try Guyana.
Now ahead by only a score, the USA wanted to put the game away. Colin Hawley helped force a turnover in contact and they spun the ball wide – really the only team at the Pan-Am Games that is going wide consistently. Rocco Mauer took the ball 60 meters out, and with the sidelines yelling “Go Rocco!” he went, outpacing everyone quite easily to round under the posts.
That made it 24-12. The USA was unlucky not to score two more times, but will take the victory.
Their restart retention was better, and their defense aggressive, but penalty trouble – fair or not – keeps some of these games closer than they need to be.
Notes: Zack Test and Roland Suniula did not play in this match again. Test seems to be healthy, and could well play in the semifinal.
Tries: Unufe, Scully, Niua, Mauer
Tries: Gonsalzes, McKenzie