Fiji downed the Eagles 32-10 in Japan Tuesday. The Eagles trailed 10 at halftime and had more than a couple of prime scoring chances go uncapitalized on.
Luke Hume put the Eagles on the front foot from the opening kickoff, gashing Fiji’s defense and carrying the ball deep into the attacking end before the possession was cut short by Robbie Shaw’s grubber into the try zone being touched down for a 22-meter dropout.
Fiji regained possession off the kick but didn’t gain any ground. An attempt to clear lines was charged down, and the Eagles kept pressure on the home team, eventually earning a short arm scrum penalty. The next pack down, however, resulted in a full penalty to the Fijians, who cleared the ball into touch and away from danger.
The United States quickly went back on the offensive and worked the ball to the attacking end again. This time the trip resulted in points, as Adam Siddall slotted a penalty after Fiji was pinged for not rolling away at the breakdown. With nine minutes gone, the USA led 3-0.
Fiji got its chance to draw level when Cam Dolan knocked on the ensuing restart and the Eagles were penalized for collapsing the scrum. Seremaia Baikeinuku’s kick sailed through the uprights, knotting the game at 3-3.
Fiji nearly scored twice in the next couple of minutes. The first knock on the door was rebuffed when the Eagles turned the ball over at the ruck inside their own five-meter line, and the second was ended when Blaine Scully delivered a big try-saving tackle on the try line, jarring the ball loose for a knock-on.
The Eagles weren’t out of danger after the mishap, though, as the US scrum was penalized for what seems like the 100th time in the last few games. Fiji drove the USA back, and Nikola Matawalu touched down off the set piece. Baikenuku converted to make it 10-3.
Fiji tacked up another five points with a try from fullback Timoci Nagusa, who dove in at the corner. The play was set up off a scrum. Matawalu ran sideways and drew the attention of multiple defenders, opening a hole for outside center Nemani Nadolo. It was out of the ruck off following his run that Nagusa picked and scored. Baikenuku hit the difficult conversion – 17-3.
The Eagles got one back just before halftime, and nearly got two. They had been threatening for a couple of minutes but were struggling to get to the try line with slow ball. Fiji was then called for offside at the ruck at the five-meter line, and Robbie Shaw quick-tapped and the ball found Andrew Suniula’s hands. He found a small gap and lunged for pay dirt on a second effort for the score. Siddall converted, making it 17-10.
The visitors almost then leveled just seconds later. John Quill made a line break, but he was hauled in inches short of a try and knocked on during the tackle. So Fiji held a 17-10 lead at intermission.
The USA switched out its front row at halftime, but the scrum woes continued even with Phil Thiel and Shawn Pittman on the field. Fiji made a big break and was rewarded with a scrum in the attacking end. Two phases off the set piece the Fijians crashed over to extend the lead to 22-10 at 47 minutes. The conversion was unsuccessful.
Fiji pushed the lead further in the 53rd minute after Lou Stanfill was called for obstruction. Baikeinuku slotted the penalty to make it a three-score game at 25-10. Fiji sounded the death knell the next try. 32-10.
The Eagles nearly got one back around the 65-minute mark, but the final pass that put the recipient away was deemed forward.
Quill went down with what seemed like a serious knee injury in the 73rd minute when a Fijian tackling Mike Petri, who’d come on a little earlier, had his legs whip around and hobble the flanker. Chris Wyles was brought on in his place, and Adam Siddall slid to No. 8. Siddall started the game at outside center, moved to fullback when James Paterson was injured (Blaine Scully moved to the wing) and finished the game at No. 8.
Fiji capped off scoring in the 79th minute with a penalty, pushing the lead to 35-10.
The loss drops the Eagles to 0-3 in the resurgent Pacific Nations Cup.