Fiji knocked the USA to 0-2 with a 33-19 defeat of the hosts in front of over 10,000 fans Friday night in Sam Boyd Stadium.
The USA kicked deep the Fiji and tried to pin the speedy team in their own end. It didn’t work, as Fiji kicked ahead to get back on the front foot. That worked, and a nifty switch caught out Mike Palefau and put Waisea Nayacalevu in under the posts.
The Eagles caught the restart, but were quickly called for holding on to the ball, despite the fact they had support. Turnover, and a quick try for Fiji.
The Eagles could not lie down, however, as there was plenty of rugby to play. After winning the next restart, Palefau cut through the midfield and then sent a long, flat pass to Zack Test on the wing, and the vice captain made it all the way to the corner. Shalom Suniula’s brilliant touchline conversion made it 14-7, and a game of it.
Test was in the middle of things again, taking the restart on the run. But he thought pass just a little late after beating one man. The result was a knock-on, and a switch move and a kick ahead by Nayacalevu led to a try for Metuisela Talebula that started on Fiji’s goal line.
21-7 Fiji, and that’s how the half ended. The USA had three promising attacks, of which one netted a try. Fiji had two promising attacks, and scored each time, and got another off a USA penalty in their own end. One of the other two tries came off an avoidable USA turnover.
Same story in the second half. One turnover was stopped by some good tackling and Colin Hawley ripping the ball away. The second was James Brown intercepting Shalom Suniula’s pass and coasting under the posts.
The Eagles showed they can play rugby when they don’t turn it over. Craigwell and Hawkins combined well to open up space on the left wing and Colin Hawley cut back. That set up a quick ruck, and hands out put Folau Niua in at the corner. 28-12 Fiji led with 3:45 to go.
And it looked set to be 28-19, but turnovers foiled them again – Hawley dropping a pass. Fiji countered and benefited from an obvious, and uncalled, knock-on, and were in at the corner. 33-12.
Caravelli emptied the bench thereafter, and the Eagles put together a little more offense. After a pair of phases, reserve Peter Tiberio stiff-armed one Fijian defender and outraced the others for a try to end the match. 33-19 for Fiji, but perhaps some indication that the Eagles offense has something to show off.