When they started this ride, they set out to shock the world and they’re doing just that. It’s two down, one to go and the USA Tomahawks are already headed for the playoff rounds of the Rugby League World Cup.
The worst they can do is 2-1 after the preliminary rounds are all said and done, but don’t be surprised if, as we’ve suggested previously, they finish 3-0.
After chalking up wins against the Cook Islands and Wales, the US sits atop Group D and has punched its ticket for the knockout stages of RLWC2013 even though there’s still one more game to go.
"The boys just keep defying belief,” said Tomahawks head coach Terry Matterson. “We will, however, keep our heads down and work hard.”
"We have created a good atmosphere in camp and the guys have bought into it.”
Before this campaign started, not too many pundits gave the Tomahawks much hope of coming out of the early rounds because they’re Rugby League World Cup first-timers, but that hasn’t seemed to bother the players at all.
They took down the Cook Islands 32-20 in their debut RLWC game and then in what at the very least is on a par with their stunning victory over #4 France in their final warm-up match, they dispatched #5 Wales 24-16 on the Dragons’ home turf in Wrexham.
Again they leaked first points, but again they fought back and led by 20-points with less than ten minutes to go. Two late tries gave some respectability to the final scoreline from a Welsh standpoint, but the reality is Wales played poorly and the Tomahawks made them pay for their sloppiness.
"The boys dug deep. It was a big effort in front of that crowd,” said USA captain Joseph Paulo, who was named Man of the Match. "The boys stepped up every time we were in trouble. I'm just so proud."
By the way, that win was the sixth straight W for the Tomahawks, a new all-time team record.
The best they’ve done in the past was a string of four consecutive victories, and they did that twice. The first time was between 1997 and 1999 and the second was more recently in the 2009/2010 seasons.
So now it’s on to Salford City to face #11 Scotland in their Group C/D crossover game on Thursday in a match that will set them up for the quarterfinals, and while it’s not a must-win situation, they will want to keep their momentum going.
"Expectations might go up for us on the outside, but in the room we are not talking about results,” added Coach Matterson.
"These guys are playing for the right reasons. They don't get paid. They don't even get an allowance. In the qualifiers a lot of these guys paid for their own airfares to play for USA.
"We are just trying to get some awareness back in America. We got a few lines in the New York Times the other day, hopefully now we get a few paragraphs."
Scotland won’t be easy to handle and while the pressure is off a little for the US thanks to Tonga beating the Cook Islands in their Group C/D crossover match, the Scots will present a tough challenge because there’s a lot more on the line for them.
After edging Tonga and tying with Italy in their first two games, they need a win to stay in the hunt for the quarterfinals. A loss, and like the Welsh before them, they’re done.
And talking about the quarterfinals, the US is staring down the barrel of a matchup with #1 Australia in what will be a daunting challenge back in Wrexham, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
For now it’s the bonnie Scots next up and the Tomahawks hope it won’t matter if they take the high road or the low road, just as long as they get there afore them.