Americans win Cold War clash

The USA scored the only try of a scrappy Pool C fixture to beat Russia 13-6 in New Plymouth.

This match was as ugly as the Scotland-Georgia one yesterday, but the USA’s celebrations after the final whistle showed they didn’t care how the win was achieved.

The Americans were in control for the majority of the 80 minutes, and while Russia’s defence was outstanding, the World Cup debutants never looked like scoring a try, apart from one surge in the opening minute when a charged down kick allowed them to get within a metre of the USA tryline. While they weren’t able to cross it, flyhalf Yury Kushnarev’s penalty gave his side a big confidence boost, although he missed with his second attempt minutes later.

However, the USA had most of the possession for the remainder of the half and spent a total of nine minutes inside Russia’s 22. USA fullback Chris Wyles levelled the scores with a penalty, before flyhalf Ronald Suniula made a clean linebreak and found his brother Andrew at inside centre, who sent scrumhalf Mike Petri away for the try. Wyles kicked the conversion but missed another two penalties that allowed the Russians to stay within striking distance.

Light rain began to fall at the end of the first half and by the start of the second it was pouring. It did ease up, but conditions for running rugby remained difficult (not that that deterred the USA from playing an expansive game).

Kushnarev missed a long-range penalty attempt early in the second half, but Russia soon found themselves back inside their own territory and forced to make tackle after tackle (they had to make 137 in all, 20 of which were missed). The USA finally turned pressure into points when Wyles kicked a penalty with 15 minutes to go, but that was all they had to show for their second-half efforts.

Kushnarev missed another penalty but outside centre Konstantin Rachkov slotted one in the 78th minute to set up a thrilling finish. USA captain Todd Clever was penalised for a shoulder charge that should have resulted in a yellow card and Russia opted to take the scrum instead of kicking for the corner (which was not surprising, considering they’d lost six of their own throws). But the Russians knocked on in the final play of the game and American party began.

By Simon Borchardt

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