Friday, June 10, 2011

Tonga impress against the USA Eagles

A full IRB international match took place in England on Wednesday afternoon with the United States taking on Tonga in the Churchill Cup. It was the USA´s second match in five days while Tonga was making its first appearance in the tournament. The USA entered the match with a stronger side than the one that lost to the England Saxons on Saturday while Tonga fielded a side which was near full-strength. Tonga had its European and Japanese based professional players on the park with big names including Tonga Lea'aetoa, Pasuka Mapakaitolo and Kisi Pulu. It was, however Australian based Viliame Iongi who stared for the South Sea Islanders with a match defining four tries as Tonga impressed with a 44-13 victory which underlined the lack of depth in USA rugby and the urgent need for a professional league in the country.

The USA were not at full strength and missed plenty of first choice players, especially in the backs. Those given the opportunity to play in the match in place of professionals were unable to perform at the required level.  As such a number of players could very well have lost their places in the squad for New Zealand 2011. There were some good performances however with centre Paul Emerick scoring the USA´s only try and playing a very strong match. In all fairness the scoreline does not tell the tale of the match accurately at all. The game was far closer. After Emerick went over in the thirty-third minute the scores were 13-10 and remained as such until after the interval. The three point advantage had come from Tongan flyhalf, Kurt Morath slotting two first half penlaty and converting Iongi´s first half try. The try was from a basic error in communication from the USA´s centre and fullback as they both were guilty of ball watching rather than sticking to their opponent. The USA fought back from 13-0 with a penalty to flyhalf Nese Malifa before Emerick went over for the Eagles. The USA could have had a 17-13 lead at half time as secondrower Scott LaValla came close to scoring but knocked on late in the half. It was a case of the USA not wanting the half to end while Tonga were desparate to have a ten minute break.

The secondhalf proved to be an entirely different affair with Iongi scorign a hat-trick and Morath slotting goal after goal. After the first try the USA lose prop Shawn Pittman to a yellow card which made it tought work for the USA and enabled Tonga to get firmly on top. A Malifa penalty was all the USA could come up with while Tonga scored four tries in the secondhalf. Many due to simple errors from the North Americans. Tonga already had the game wrapped up before backrower Pasuka Mapakaitolo went over for a last minute try to see the score blown-out to give flatter the Tongans. The South Seas Islanders did deserve the win and will take a lot of confidence from it. The USA will go on to play either Italy A or Russia in its third and final Churchill Cup match on June 18 at Worcester. Tonga will face the England Saxons in Gloucester on Sunday. The winner will advance to the Churchill Cup Final to face Canada.

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