NEW PLYMOUTH, - USA skipper Todd Clever was a proud but relieved man after his team’s 13-6 victory over Russia in their Pool C match at Stadium Taranaki on Thursday.
The Eagles were pushed all the way by the dogged Rugby World Cup debutants, but a converted Mike Petri try proved the difference
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Clever.
|Nic Johnson (on ground) of the U.S. tackles Russia’s Vyacheslav Grachev during their Rugby World Cup Pool C match at Stadium Taranaki in New Plymouth September 15, 2011. REUTERS
“I’m proud of the boys tonight. We made it tough on ourselves, but the crowd helped get us through this one.
“Mentally we were there but physically we were a bit slow off the cuff. I was very nervous at the end but they are a tough, tough team.
“They are improving every time we play them and are getting better and better.”
After leading 10-3 at half- time, the second half went scoreless for 24 minutes before USA fullback Chris Wyles increased their lead to 13-3 with a close-in penalty goal.
Earlier in the half he had missed three other attempts and a drop goal in front of the posts.
For Russia, kicker Yury Kushnarev was having a similar poor return from penalty attempts.
He squandered a simple penalty goal in the 71st minute to reduce the USA lead and his kicking statistics for the game were one success from four attempts. Konstantin Rachkov did reduce the lead to seven points on 77 minutes, which was followed by a great move down the left wing from the kick off.
Russia spent the final minutes hot on attack, but it proved to be too little, too late as they failed to breach the USA line.
The Russians had been on the attack straight after the kick off and took the early lead when Kushnarev slotted a handy penalty in the third minute.
The Americans, on the back foot early on, got back into the match and on 12 minutes Wyles kicked an equalising penalty goal.
At this stage there was much enterprising play, with both teams probing deep into the other’s territory.
USA scored the game’s only try in the 19th minute when scrum half Petri got on the end of a slick backline move, with the Suniula brothers Andrew and Roland prominent. Roland Suniula converted for a 10-3 lead.
Wyles failed to increase the USA lead when he missed a kickable penalty in the 30th minute and soon after the restart missed another, more difficult attempt.
In the 58th minute Wyles hit the right-hand upright with another attempt at goal and five minutes later missed an attempted drop goal from in front. USA’s attempts to put the game beyond Russia were coming to nothing as they dominated possession and territory. The Russian forwards were on a par with their USA opponents in the tight, but their lineout did not function well, losing six from their own throw.