The Eagles grind out an abrasive 13-6 victory over debutants Russia to get their Pool C campaign back on track.
US leave Russia's Rugby World Cup debut in ruins
NEW PLYMOUTH, NEW ZEALAND // The United States ground out an abrasive 13-6 victory over Rugby World Cup debutants Russia to get their campaign back on track.
The Eagles, who lost their Pool C opener 22-10 to Ireland, enjoyed large periods of advantage in terms of territory and possession but could not fully convert them into points in the face of a doughty Russian defence.
Mike Petri scored the only try of the game, with the full-back Chris Wyles adding a conversion and two penalties in tricky kicking conditions.
Russia struggled at set pieces, with the scrum wilting under pressure at times and the line-out malfunctioning, and also at the breakdown where US captain Todd Clever, fellow flanker Louis Stanfill and prop Mike MacDonald were outstanding.
But it was the debutants who got off to the better start when a charged-down clearance kick saw Sergey Popov and Andrey Garbuzov go close before the US infringed at a ruck.
Yury Kushnarev, the fly-half, stepped up to kick the third-minute penalty for Russia's first ever World Cup points, to roars of delight from a packed house at Yarrow Stadium.
Kushnarev failed with a second ambitious effort from 46 metres in swirling wind shortly after, but Wyles equalled the scores with an 11th minute penalty for a blatant offside in midfield.
Momentum then swung the US team's way.
America Samoa-born fly-half Roland Suniula broke the line, found his brother Andrew inside who then offloaded to Petri, who fended off the full-back Igor Klyuchnikov to go in under the posts for a try which Wyles converted.
Wyles then missed a second penalty but USA suddenly looked the dominant side as the Suniula brothers and Clever began to punch holes in the Russian midfield.
When the Russian scrum collapsed in their own 22, the US kicked for touch but could not get over the line despite a sustained period of pressure.
Unable to clear their lines and with a scrum under the cosh, Russia defended valiantly and were again let off the hook as Wyles badly skewed a third penalty attempt on the half-hour mark to make it 10-3 at half-time.
Kushnarev missed a second penalty early in the second half after Northampton-bound winger Vasily Artemyev showed his capability of breaking through defences with some marauding runs.
The Eagles came racing back and Andrew Suniula almost crossed for a memorable try, side-stepping his way past a number of defenders but just hauled down short of the line.
Wyles then missed a third kickable penalty and a snap drop-goal, but eventually notched his second successful penalty in the 64th minute to stretch the lead to 13-3.
Centre Konstantin Rachkov cut the deficit with a second Russian penalty with three minutes to go, but it was too little too late and Russia will now move on to face a tougher game against Italy in Nelson on Tuesday.
The US take on Australia in Wellington next Friday.